Science & Technology

Cuban youngsters make strides in robotics

By Laura Becquer

Havana, May 20 (EFE).- From her tablet, 12-year-old Bryana Alfonso puts a mechanically animated doll through its paces using software she learned to write at a Youth Computation Club in the Cuban capital.

The doll turns its head left and right, moves it arms, and even speaks on command from Bryana, whose accomplishment has brought her two national robotics awards.

“Barbara has components that allow it to carry out actions. Two Bluetooth modules: one to control it from the app and another connected to a prosthesis,” the young inventor tells Efe at the Club in Havana’s Vibora Park neighborhood.

Regarding the reason for the prosthesis, Bryana says, “because I really like biology and I would like to help people in the future.”

She has also mounted a tiny camera in the doll with the idea of eventually enabling Barbara “to recognize people” through artificial intelligence.

Alongside Barbara is Cartonbot (Cardboard-bot), a robot whose guts consist of parts from an old printer and with “made entirely of cardboard,” creator Abel Robago says.

“It has three step motors with which it looks left, right, lifts and lowers the arms, and controls ‘ratonbot’ – a mouse with two plastic wheels,” the 13-year-old adds.

“It can even be controlled from a certain distance with the tablet,” Abel tells Efe.

Both Cartonbot and Barbara were crafted using recycled materials, free software such as Scratch, Mblock, and App Inventor, and robotics kits supplied by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Of the roughly 600 Youth Computation Clubs across Cuba, 26 have robotics programs under the direction of engineer and entrepreneur Francisco Garcia.

“The children program games and animation with Scratch, they control the robots through apps for cell phones and tablets with App App Inventor, and they give indications with sound and light using the tool UnoArduSim,” he explains to Efe.

The initiative got under way in November 2020 “with the aim to develop more important applications in educational robotics,” Garcia says.

Since then, thousands of Cuban youth have been introduced to robotics and many have discovered vocations for science and technology that will aid the nation’s development, he says. EFE


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