Holiday Robotics Training

In early September 2016, I got another opportunity to mentor a group of young people from Gulu in Mobile application development during the Holiday Robotics Training organized by Oysters & Pearls - Uganda at their Gulu town premises. Running for two weeks, this training covered areas like Video Game Design, Robotics and Electronics, Minecraft and Mobile Applications Development. Unlike the January camp, this training was not residential and participants attended from Monday to Saturday between 8AM to 5PM. 

A day before the official start of the training, mentors made preparations and arranged the different equipment to be used. It had been 7 months since I was last in Gulu and I couldn’t help but notice in awe the progress Oysters and Pearls had made in regards to their Maker Space - all thanks to Sandra Washburn for her love, dedication and motivation in equipping tech-savvy young people with technological skills to aid them become the change makers this nation needs.

The Maker Space is perfectly set up with all the requirements that anyone with a dream of changing the world using technology would need through their journey. I am talking about mentors, passionate people who will guide and help you whenever you need them. A bookshelf with technology books that range from technology magazines, beginner programming books for any programming language as far as books with trail projects and developing a world changing product. With different practical games that teach basic things like circuits, sensors, electronics among others. With this setup, someone could literally go with only the heart and brains to learn how to and develop a life changing project. “...why dream of going to Silicon Valley to change the world when I have a Silicon Valley in the making in my home town”.

To any student, a normal holiday means getting a lot of sleep, resting from books and watching lots of TV. For this three weeks holiday, students from different schools around Gulu town turned up for the training on a Wednesday with excitement and willingness to learn and discover. I personally think that for them to sacrifice their time and whatever fun they could have had, had they stayed home and instead chose to attend this training was really priceless. These holiday trainings often have an average of 15 students apart from the January Annual Camp, which attracts way more participants from all over the country. Numbers seem to keep going up with each edition of the program as there seems to be a kind of natural mechanism aiding this. For instance, when one participant brings along a friend, the new friend in turn often brings another to the next program. By the next holiday training, the number of participants multiplies. We could easily say that in the next two years for each two short holidays, over 120 students will be participating in these programs.

Moving on, or rather back to the topic, the first day opened with the introduction of the instructors. Instructors included Denis Obote Robotics instructor , Jacob Odur Electronics instructor, Andrew Mukalu Game Design instructor, Smith Minecraft instructor , Adeline Tushabe Game Design instructor and myself, Nassuna Phyllis Mobile App Development instructor. Participants were briefed on the four classes which were to run concurrently. Understandably, they had a hard time choosing which class to attend because they could only attend one class due to the limited time to cover everything during the training.

The students’ interest to learn often inspires their instructor to keep doing what they do. There is always a first time for everything and this is the best time to pick interest because it’s what pushes one to learn more and makes them more curious even when things seem to be very difficult. For most of the students in the training, it was their first time to be introduced to mobile application development. You could tell they were excited about learning to develop their own applications as all they could talk about was developing their own games on the phone.

At the end of the training, students presented work they did ranging from transaction and educational mobile applications, video games, robotics projects and creative Minecraft building among others. This also gave them an opportunity to horn their presentation and communication skills as for most students, this was their first time presenting to people.


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