Youth taught tech skills of the future

Darren Daniels, 14, from Athlone, and Lyle Groenewald, 16, from Heideveld, created a short animation video at the NXTGen bootcamp at RLabs.

Within two days of being introduced to tools to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, young people doing the NXTGen bootcamp at RLabs were able to make their own robots and animation videos, among other creations.

The children, aged 10 to 17, showed off their work to their parents and other relatives on Friday September 27.

A total of 250 of them completed the crash course, and for most, this was the first time being exposed to this kind of technology.

RLabs is a non-profit organisation that was started in Bridgetown in 2008.

The NXTGen bootcamp is a holiday programme where the youth can learn complex and technical skills, with the aim of making their lives better.

Rabia Adamson, RLabs chief of academy, said the children were introduced to artificial intelligence, animation, robotics and coding.

With each of the technological skills, their end product had to problem-solve issues faced by their generation – like the environment they find themselves in.

The bootcamp, which started last year, is held every school holiday, except the December holiday. It is open to any young person from the age of 10 to 17 years, and there is no specific criteria to be part of it. The three-day bootcamp is also free of charge.

“We are diverse and uniquely designed, and therefore we don’t have a set criteria. In our bootcamp, we encourage teamwork and peer-to-peer training.

“With robotics, they build something that can move. With advanced robotics, they learn to problem-solve using recycled materials. They build futuristic toys.

“With animation, they also do some problem-solving, and produce short animation videos. They also learnt about scriptwriting and sound, and they do storyboarding to see what the screen would look like,” Ms Adamson said.

When asked about people fearing that the Fourth Industrial Revolution would mean job losses, Ms Adamson said this is not necessarily the case.

“Technology is always evolving and we need to make sure that we are equipped for future jobs. If you are in a position where you want to grow, you need to grow with technology.

“Yes, youth unemployment is high, but if we look at the top 10 skills needed for the future, it includes coding, design, and machines. I don’t think people should fear it, but instead jump on the bandwagon. Having said that, however, we all have our gifts, and we need to be true to our identity and gifting.”

Sisonke Sifo, 12, from Khayelitsha, was among the 250 pupils who were part of the bootcamp.

“I like to learn new things. I learnt how to make my own animated video. In this generation, technology is taking over, and we need to learn about what’s happening in our world,” she said.

Lyle Groenewald, 16, from Heideveld, said he enjoyed the experience.