MONTEVIDEO – Hundreds of Uruguayan children studying their final elementary and high school courses presented on Friday their ideas for more sustainable schools through the application of robotics combined with different sources of renewable energy.
Gathered at the 3rd Robotics, Programming and Videogames Olympics being held Friday at Uruguay’s Technological Laboratory, children and teens from around the country showed that another way to build schools is possible thanks to today’s technology.
“It all started with the question about what has caused the increase in unusual weather phenomena in recent years. From there we started working on finding the causes and consequences of atmospheric contamination,” Rocio, a student at Artigas School 54, told EFE.
“Then we started thinking about what we could do to stop polluting the atmosphere, and for that reason we set out to create the self-sustaining school,” she said.
Rocio and fellow students Alfonsina and Gabrielli took to the Olympics their “Natural Paradise” project, in which they presented a model of the ideal sustainable school.
“The goal was also to use renewable energy,” Magela Fuzatti, head of Digital Laboratories of the Ceibal Plan, a government project that gives a laptop computer to each public-school student and teacher and promotes this event, told EFE.
Other students like Pedro, Gaston and Federico of the Atlantida Lyceum 1 of Canelones, were inspired by the Hobbit Houses of conservationist builder Simon Dale to create their school.
“The roof is made of earth and grass, because the earth is natural insulation that in winter keeps the school warmer and in summer much cooler, with no need for air conditioning,” Pedro said.
The robotic part of the project is completed with a system of solar lighting turned on and off by a light-and-darkness sensor, and an automatic watering system that captures rainwater
Some of the Olympic projects, however, were not about schools but about the production of pulses.
Students of Artigas School 17 set out to solve some problems existing in one of Uruguay’s most popular crops, that of genetically modified soy, which included crop-dusting drones that keep pilots safe from toxic products.
The Olympics is basically a plan to promote “learning based on projects,” Fuzatti said.
According to the organizer, the idea is for youngsters not to focus on becoming engineers, scientists or mathematicians, but to use “the way of thinking of a scientist, an engineer or a mathematician” to develop their projects and “to solve complex problems the way computers think.”