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Fraunhofer-Institut

Robotics to supercharge girls’ education

07.12.2018

Women occupy only 25 percent of tech jobs. One open source platform is setting out to increase that figure.

Why do so few women work in technology jobs? Educational institutions’ failure to encourage girls to pursue careers in tech is one major reason that comes to mind. We at SOS-Kinderdörfer weltweit are planning to embark on a journey to increase the representation of women in tech jobs. We believe that all our beneficiaries have the right to equal access to quality care and education regardless of gender. Partnering with “Roberta – Learning with Robots” is in the works and we are seeking to bring technology not only to our male beneficiaries in our schools worldwide, but to our female beneficiaries as well.

Who or what is Roberta?

Roberta is an initiative by Fraunhofer IAIS that aims to make girls and boys become active designers and ushers them into the digital world by teaching them how to playfully program robots and microboards. One of Roberta’s main components is the Open Roberta Lab, a visual programming platform for robots. Another element is a didactic concept, which applies to both, boys and girls alike. The concept was therefore a huge hit with the female participants at the Roberta Workshop between “SOS-Kinderdörfer weltweit” and the “Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e.V.” held in October 2018. Roberta resonated with Lachana in particular, who herself is a software engineer. She feels that though computer science is so much fun in reality, it is normally taught in a too technical and boring way which does not appeal to girls – and that’s where Roberta’s methods come in handy.

Fraunhofer-Institut
Roberta may look like a toy, but she can help girls discover their passion for programming.
Fraunhofer-Institut
In a workshop between SOS-Kinderdörfer and Fraunhofer, former SOS children tried it out and found this little power bundle really compelling.
Fraunhofer-Institut
Lachana (right), Software Engineer, is convinced that Roberta will inspire more girls to choose a technological career path.

“Girls in my country generally study Computer Science because it is considered a ‘fancy’ career which is highly seen in society” according to Lachana. “They do not study it because they like it. Introducing young girls to Computer Science using Roberta will change that because Roberta is engaging and arouses one’s curiosity.”

Roberta will show girls that programming is fun. Robotics is fun! It is not only useful and understandable to boys!

Lachana

Software Engineer and graduate of SOS Hermann Gmeiner School Sanothimi in Nepal

If all goes as planned, with Roberta, our female beneficiaries will not only get to see the fun and exciting aspect of using modern technologies, they will also be exposed to the reality that they can also create and design something new out of nothing. With a dream to be great achievers in the tech industry and with role models like Susan Wojcicki (CEO of YouTube) to emulate, we are confident that even if our beneficiaries do not get as far as Susan has, they will still be in a position to achieve far more than if they never had the ambition or exposure.

More girls in tech – The key to a better world?

Most studies indicate that the economic benefits of educating a girl are the same as those of educating a boy. The major difference is seen when the social benefits are taken into consideration because the social benefits of educating a girl tend to be greater than those of educating a boy. We at SOS-Kinderdörfer weltweit are confident that if we make use of Roberta, the technological know-how and influence derived from Roberta will transform our female beneficiaries into a force to reckon with, both within their families and their communities.

The knowledge a woman gains has a multiplying effect which can be transferred from generation to generation. If empowering the girl child with basic education has been seen to have a positive effect on education of future generations, health and nutrition, infant mortality rates etc., we at SOS-Kinderdörfer weltweit are convinced that adding the tech element to the girl child’s education will have a mind-blowing impact on the societies we are active in. And possibly, we will be able to reduce the need for our help as self-reliance can be realised.

For our girls, with education in Information and Computer Technology, the world is their oyster! With the qualifications they can attain, our female beneficiaries can get well-paying jobs. With the money they can get empowered. And with power they can change the world!

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