The Crazy Divas’ Robotic Adventures
From an indigent South African Township to the World Robot Olympiad in Malaysia
For the last four years, the LEGO Foundation and the UBS Optimus Foundation have joined forces to help improve South African children's access to education. Among a number of great accomplishments, the project "Developing Talents through Creative Play" has given three young girls an experience of a lifetime.
The project has supported all of Atteridgeville Township (a community of 250,000 inhabitants near Pretoria) with a LEGO Education solution. All of the township's 25 primary schools have received products, training, curriculum, and monthly support to improve the education methodology and ensure that students feel engaged in the learning process. However, it has become clear that when the students exit the primary school after 7th grade, they also leave the project—and their talents are not nurtured going forward.
To address this concern, the local LEGO Foundation partner, Hands on Technologies (HOT), set up a resource centre in the township, offering after-school robotics classes and giving kids beyond 7th grade the
opportunity to stay involved in the methodology. The first resource centre was opened in April 2012 as a small pilot project, but the enthusiasm among these kids was so great that only a few months later it was decided to create a few national World Robot Olympiad (WRO) teams out of the 40 students. Lebogang Dlamini, Karabo Rithuri, and Khomotso Mokone—also known as the Crazy Divas—joined forces and
became a team.
These three girls showed so much talent, enthusiasm, and passion that they managed to finish second in the WRO competition in South Africa— quite an achievement for three teenage girls who got their first LEGO MINDSTORMS experiences just 5 months before. Sponsored by the LEGO Foundation, the Crazy Divas went to the international WRO event in Malaysia in November 2012.
Leaving their home country for the first time, the three Divas travelled all the way to Kuala Lumpur with a high level of excitement and motivation. Competition was tough, and though they did not win, they fought with bravery and smiles all the way as they faced teams from all over the world. The Crazy Divas loved every minute of their experience and the ability to represent their community. The Divas promised themselves that they would continue to practice and keep learning—so they can return and win!
Before leaving Malaysia, the Divas spent their last day—and their only day off—helping the LEGO Foundation run a local event. Instead of sightseeing and shopping, they spent the whole day teaching refugee kids and young students who do not have access to the formal school system in Malaysia how to use MINDSTORMS products. The Divas not only engaged in sharing and paying forward what they have been taught, but they also impressed everyone around them with their commitment to impact the lives of others.
"It was an impressive experience seeing the girls tackle the challenge — obviously pleased to pass on what they had learned and to share their expertise. Six months ago, they were the learners, completely new to the NXT concept. Suddenly they were now the teachers, passing on their technical know‑how. It impressed both us representing the Foundation and their original teachers—who were suddenly 'out of a job'!" says
Casper Aarlit Jensen, Educational Advisor at the LEGO Foundation.