The Faculty of Engineering (FE) at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) hosted on February 17, 2018, the launch of the World Robotics Olympiad (WRO) themed, “Food Matters,” which was attended by faculty and students as well as a number of representatives from schools across Lebanon.
The World Robot Olympiad (WRO), established in 2004, is a global robotics competition aimed at school students. The WRO uses Lego Mindstorms manufactured by LEGO Education. The FE at NDU is the academic partner of the WRO competition in Lebanon. The FE, in collaboration with the NGO Algocode, is organizing the competition proper, scheduled for July 2018. The winner of each category will be sponsored to compete at the WRO international in November 2018 in Thailand.
FE Dean Dr. Michel Hayek welcomed the attendees and gave a small overview of the FE and its different programs. Chairperson of the Mechanical Engineering Department at the FE Dr. Najib Metni discussed the different opportunities and limitations for merging robotics in elementary/middle school curricula.
Algocode Co-founder Wissam Daccache presented his vision about the new technologies and their application in schools.
WRO Coordinator Jenny Chemali and NDU Mechanical Engineering students Steven Howayek and Lorenzo Azar each took turns to explain the rules of this year’s competition. A Q&A session followed.
For his part, Dr. Metni debated the intervention, “Merging Robotics in School Curricula.” He said, “We are witnessing a substantial increase in interest for robotics among school students. Unfortunately, schools and the education system in general still lag behind. We can confidently state that robotics is now a crucial pillar in education, in science learning, and in developing the skills needed in the twenty-first century.”
He also expounded the importance of robotics in classrooms, which exists to help students learn mechanisms and electronics to develop important physical skills, such as spatial awareness and fine motor skills, programming (used to develop logic and problem-solving skills), sciences and math (through conducting experiments), and finally developing critical-thinking, communication skills, and teamwork.
Dr. Metni added that many limitations exist for the integration of robotics in the school curriculum, mainly the role of teachers and their ability to teach robotics. He said, “Many studies and experiments have shown the success of social and collaborative robots in helping children with autism.”
This competition gives NDU students an opportunity to compete in international competitions. Numerous NDU students have been trained and today they are coaching school robotics teams. This interaction will provide the students leadership and communication skills crucial in their future profession.