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Learners race their DIY robots at UJ AfrikaBOT challenge

On Sunday 22 October, teams from township and private schools will be racing the robots they built through a maze at the second AfrikaBOT competition at the Zwartkops International Raceway near Centurion. AfrikaBOT is a robotics challenge hosted by the University of Johannesburg’s Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (FEBE) Technolab.

Approximately 40 Gauteng junior high and senior high school teams will be competing in separate categories and 20 teams of university student teams will be competing in the undergraduate categories. There is also a category for “makers” which includes graduated engineers and even “moms” and “pops” with a technical inclination looking for a chance to showcase their talents.

“The competition is an ideal opportunity for young people to get a taste for careers in advanced technology and engineering,” says AfrikaBOT organiser, Mr Michael Ettershank, from UJ Technolab.

Ettershank facilitates the robotics classes that form part of the UJ Technolab community outreach programme in Alexandra Township and Diepsloot.

“Because the teenagers build their robots themselves, the cost of their AfrikaBOT robots is a fraction of typically imported robots that are used in global competitions,” adds Ettershank. “There is no compromise in quality however. The robots are world class and could hold their own in overseas competitions. The AfrikaBOT 2 is built around Arduino, an open source hardware platform, and programmed in C++. The C family of programming languages is the world standard in robotics, mechatronics and industrial automation,” adds Ettershank.

In the AfrikaBOT 2017 challenge the robots have to drive autonomously through a maze without wireless control, which introduces learners to the types of challenges faced by engineers at Google with their self-driving car.

The pre-competition days on Friday 20 October and Saturday 21 October welcome adult and children visitors, and there is free entry at Zwartkops Raceway. Visitors can try their hand at programming robots and racing them through the competition maze from 10h00-16h00.

On competition day on Sunday 22 October, visitors also have free entry to Zwartkops, and can watch teams battle it out for AfrikaBOT podium placements. The practice mazes open at 10h00 and the competition starts at 11h30, with prize-giving at 14h30.

Video: Why entering AfrikaBOT supercharges your engineering studies.

Videos: How to build AfrikaBOT robots.

AfrikaBOT competition rules.

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