SAP Africa, the major sponsor of the First Lego League (FLL) in Africa, has announced that one of its teams, named ‘SAP I’m POSSIBLE’, has qualified to compete in the 2014/2015 First Lego League World Class challenge taking place in St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America this week. The team, comprising seven learners from Hoërskool Waterkloof in Pretoria, Gauteng, qualified by winning the Gauteng provincial championship and subsequently the highly competitive South African national FLL competition in December 2014.
FLL is a global initiative that introduces children to the fun and excitement of science and technology, stimulates their creativity in problem solving and develops their ability to work in teams. Each year the FLL presents a new challenge to competing students between the ages of 9 to 16. The 2014/2015 theme was “Learning Unleashed” and teams were tasked with the challenge of transforming how learning should ideally be conducted to optimise knowledge and skills for the 21st century. In the competition, children compete in four categories: robot performance, research and presentation skills and team spirit. The FLL programme in Africa has been enriched over the years through the volunteering contributions of SAP employees who act as mentors and coaches for the teams and to date, more than 13500 children in Africa have benefited from the program since SAP’s involvement in 2006.
The FLL’s vision for developing technology skills complements the SAP Skills for Africa programme which is aimed and promoting skills development across the continent and forms an integral part of SAP’s growth plan for Africa to develop with the objective of creating a robust ecosystem of sustainable SAP skills on the continent.
This week, the SAP Africa I’m POSSBILE team will be presenting their innovative project solution to over 265,000 children from 80 countries, as well as the judges at the world champs. Their project, titled ‘The Possibility Table’ comprises an innovative all-in-one school readiness learning solution with seven different learning challenges in the form of alphabets, picture associations, shapes, numbers, colours and dress-myself toys.
For the research part of the competition, the children wanted to find out how children from two local communities surrounding Pretoria preferred to learn, whist taking into account the types of school readiness projects currently available and identifying learning challenges that currently exist. The team’s recommendations are validated through research conducted with 80 children between the ages of three and six from the two local communities with the help of local school teachers, occupational therapists and local care givers. Ultimately the team’s vast experience, knowledge of robotics and passion for education is what has motivated them to create a legacy project that has the potential to contribute towards the education of children in South Africa.
“SAP Africa has been a tremendous supporter of the FLL for the past decade and we have been able to scale great heights through the incredible support that we have received in mentoring and coaching through the SAP employee who volunteer their time to make this programme successful in Africa. In addition to providing the world-class robotics kit, SAP is also sponsoring the costs for the participation of our team at the World Class Challenge, which is an opportunity of a life-time for many participants. Within two months of testing The Possibility Table the results are life-changing. Besides the new knowledge that has been passed on to the local community care-givers, the children involved in the research can now count, write their own names, tie their shoe laces, match the pictures with alphabets – all of which was not possible before” commented I’m POSSIBLE coach, Carin de Beer.
According to a local study conducted by the South Africa Department of Education, the level of school readiness amongst children in South Africa is very low and this was validated in the recent level of learners’ school drop-out rates. A total of 48% of South Africa learners drop out of school before they complete grade 12. In 2002, only 34.8% made it through to grade 12. This means of the 1 261 827 leaners that enrolled in 2002 for year one, only 562 112 made through to year 12 in 2013. The research project also indicated that the lack of quality basic education and skills were amongst some of the root problems for such high drop-out rate.
SAP Africa’s participation in the FLL remains a cornerstone of SAP Africa’s CSR engagement on the continent with the programme having also been successfully extended to Nigeria. Further countries across Africa are set to benefit from this programme through SAP’s sponsorship. “SAP Africa is committed to developing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills in Africa as part of our Africa Growth Plan strategy. We are delighted with the team’s achievements thus far and wish the team well on the international stage. We are very proud to be associated with such innovative young minds”, said Mehmood Khan, Chief Operation Officer, SAP Africa.