Anna Iarotska was in her 30s when she realized how quickly one can lose contact in today’s world. A few years ago, as a member of the organizing team at the technology conference Pioneers in Vienna, she saw with wonderment what ideas creatives from the United Kingdom to the United States came around the corner – and what opportunities the technology offered, of which they are quite kept informed, had never heard.
“If this is changing so fast for us,” thought the graduate of the London School of Economics, “and as this development accelerates, how do we prepare our children for the future?”
The kids master the technique, not the other way around
Together with her colleagues Rustem Akishbekov and Yuri Levin, the born Ukrainian founded Robo Wunderkind: A Viennese start-up, which is intended to playfully introduce five-year-old children to the future topics of robotics and coding. With colorful modules, which not only assemble the children themselves and combine them with Lego bricks, but can also program them themselves via the app.
“The children should grow up aware that technology is something that I can actively use and create myself,” says the 35-year-old in an interview with LEAD. Unlike many adults, they would not be so afraid of technology as many would find it to be inscrutable and overly complicated. “They should be able to believe in their abilities and confidently tackle the challenges they face in an increasingly robotized and artificial intelligence world.”
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Even five-year-olds can build robots
Robo Wunderkind explicitly addresses children between the ages of five and twelve. For the youngest, abstract thinking and thinking in concepts are only just beginning, says the founder. What they are dealing with automatically finds its way into the picture they take of the world. The independent crafting of the robots is to prepare them for an increasingly digitized world, in which people have to acquire new skills – and that quickly.
Not only guys, who decide to a large majority for technical jobs, but especially girls. “At the age of five, six, they develop a great self-confidence in their own abilities. That should be used, “says the founder.
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The kits are also a help for teachers
If it is up to her, not only in the private sphere, but also increasingly in schools and other educational institutions. Worldwide, there are already over 200 educational institutions, from kindergartens to schools to NGOs where Robo Wunderkind’s robots come to life, drive around the area and change their form and function depending on the lesson. In German-speaking countries alone, there are 50.
“Right from the beginning, we also considered the group of teachers in the development,” emphasizes Anna Iarotska. Along with the robotic boxes, they would also be given syllabuses with different ideas for individual projects, of which you could also create two per lesson. In the eyes of the founder, a big advantage compared to the robots from Lego or other providers, to whose completion you have to invest significantly more time.
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The start-up puts great hopes in the digital pact adopted in March 2019, which aims to advance the digitization of schools in Germany with a sum of five billion euros. A “good initiative”, as Anna Iarotska finds – and especially in comparison with other countries urgently needed. In the US, so-called STEM subjects, which include technology, natural sciences, engineering and mathematics, are already receiving much more funding than comparable STEM subjects in Germany.
In the US, the toy is best
How differently the priorities in different countries would be set, one would see also at the paragraph of the module sets of Robo Wunderkind. About 6,000 have been sold so far, with most moving to the US, where the toy market is quite large. It was followed by Russia and South Korea, where not only more parents promoted the development of their children’s digital skills, but also government programs.
The robots are getting smarter
“In this respect, unfortunately, Germany is far behind,” says the businesswoman, who hopes that more attention will be paid to the whole issue of digitization in the coming years. Together with her 15-member team, she is currently working on expanding the functionality of the robots, which will soon be available in the third generation, so that they can communicate with each other in the spirit of swarm robotics.
If things go well, Anna Iarotska will be able to fulfill one wish in the foreseeable future: in about one and a half years, the start-up, which has so far received around two million euros, will make a profit for the first time.