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Indigenous kids learn about robotics at summer camp

A group of Indigenous students are split into two classrooms at the University of Calgary where one group learns how to code and the second builds robots from Lego kits.

Rob Cardinal is the co-founder of IndigeSTEAM and the STEM coordinator for the Siksika Board of Education. He's not physically at camp but overseeing it with the help of an Ohmni Telepresence Robot.  It allows him to listen in to the teaching and even help students learn though a video monitor and camera attached to a stand on wheels that he can maneuver from his computer. The students see and talk to him in real time.

"With IndigeSTEAM we're really trying to make access to camps like this more available to our Indigenous youth," said Cardinal. "It's the hands-on learning that we're after giving them."

Logan Arcilla is IndigeSTEAM's technical support teaching the students at camp. The 25-year-old is from the Alexis First Nation northwest of Edmonton and said he didn't have any camps like this when he was young and loved to take things apart and rebuild them. He's passing on what he's learned hoping some of the students will choose a career involving STEAM.

"Because they're Indigenous there's a little bit more opportunity and some companies, they want to be able to give back to the communities and that's so great," he said. "Giving back to the communities has been like my number one priority from day one to teach robotics at reserves and summer camps like this."


Sanah Jowhari is the CEO and co-founder of Pantala Technologies and has partnered with IndigeSTEAM.

"We're a distributor and integrator of robotic solutions, we're super thrilled at the acceptance of this technology as just a new form of learning and collaboration, very thrilled with our partnership with IndigeSTEAM," she said. "At the heart of it, this really is a case for making education accessible and exciting with the help of advanced robotics and when you think about it telepresence offers a fantastic dimension to learn at a global level."

Students have a choice about what kind of robot to make out of Lego and Brendon Many Bears shows off one robot sporting bells and feathers, incorporating a cultural theme.

"The Chicken Dance is one of our traditional dances in the Blackfoot culture," he said. "We have it at pow wows and we get the students to build these, they try to mimic the dances with the robots here."

Using one of the robots the students get the opportunity to tour where the Ohmni robots are made over 2,100 kilometres away.

"We're here in San Jose, California, Santa Clara Valley," Rudy Gonzalez, Ohmnilabs brand manager tells the students. "This is Ohmnilabs, this is our 3D printing facility on the manufacturing floor here and you're seeing a line of custom made 3D printers."

Maeve Lobb is 14-years-old and operates one of the Ohmni Telepresence Robots around the classroom with a computer keyboard.

"It can basically go anywhere," she said. "From your screen you can see anywhere in the world, you control it with the arrow keys, there is (a view) of the floor so you can drive more accurately and see where you are so you don't bump into things. I don't know a lot about computers because I haven't really done robotics a lot but I like this camp because you get to learn about a lot of things like this."

Learn more about IndigeSTEAM here: Top Stories

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