New robotics laboratory sparks joy in KZN community

The Fourth Industrial Revolution arrived in earnest for the pupils of Mountview Secondary School in Verulam, north of Durban, this week.

On Wednesday, the elated pupils played with controllers to demonstrate their robotics skills during the launch of a brand-new robotics laboratory at the school. The Shoprite Foundation has facilitated and funded the laboratory.

The construction of the Mountainview robotics laboratory began in June last year when the Shoprite Foundation commissioned SIFISO Edtech, a South African company which specialises in delivering turnkey robotics hubs, to put together the laboratory.

The state-of-the-art laboratory boasts microcontrollers, actuators, gyroscopes, laptop computers, tablets, overhead projectors, and screens, just to mention a few. Pupils in grade 8 and 9 will use the lab.

The launch at the school began with a panel discussion on the robotics laboratory.

The panel discussion was comprised of the managing trustee of the Shoprite Foundation Maude Modise, head of digital learning and technology at SIFISO Edtech Xoliswa Mahlangu, and the principal of Mountview Secondary School, Indran Govender.

Also in attendance at the media launch were the officials of the KwaZulu-Natal department of education.  

Shoprite spends R1.6m on two sites at Verulam schools

The Shoprite Foundation spent R1.6-million to install two fully equipped robotics laboratories, at Mountview Secondary and nearby Verulam High. 

After the panel discussion, there was a walkabout of the robotics laboratory.

Smiling from ear to ear, the pupils, clad in their school uniforms, played with the microcontrollers to move the robots around in the robotics laboratory, much to the delight of officials and older members of the audience. 

Beaming with excitement, Shoprite’s Modise said the two schools were selected to launch the robotics initiative as the Department of Basic Education is piloting coding and robotics as a subject.

“The groundwork was in place, and importantly, there was interest and enthusiasm, so we saw an opportunity to help by providing training and equipment and adapting the existing computer rooms into fully functional robotics laboratories.


“AI (artificial intelligence) is already part of our everyday lives. At the Shoprite Group, we are using AI to get the freshest products on the shelves and reduce food waste. By investing in future-fit education, we aim to ensure that these learners leave school able to participate and contribute to a modern economy,” said Modise.

Govender said he is happy and relieved that his pupils have a robotics laboratory that will help when they do subjects like information technology (IT) and computer applications technology (CAT) in further grades.

Consumer studies lab

“The grade 8 and 9 pupils have the opportunity to work in the field of robotics and coding. This will be a stepping stone in their preparation of grade 10 when they start choosing subjects like IT or CAT.

“It (the launch of the lab) is a long time coming. I did not think it would be possible with the fiscus and constraints we have.

“We are grateful to Shoprite for coming on board and making it possible to ensure these pupils have conducive facilities that can bring the best out of them,” said Govender.

Meanwhile, a Shoprite Foundation-funded consumer studies laboratory was also unveiled on the day at Mountview Secondary.

The consumer studies laboratory comes with cooking stoves, kitchen sink tubs, and aprons, among others, for the pupils.

Pupils in grades 10, 11 and 12 will use the consumer studies laboratory. 

“These initiatives align to the foundation’s broader goals of unlocking educational opportunities for South African youth through future-fit learning and the development of an entrepreneurial spirit,” said Modise.

KZN education department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said there are 16 schools in the province with complete and fully resourced robotics laboratories. 

Mahlambi said construction of other robotics laboratories in the province is underway at 13 schools. By the end of February this year, he stated, the construction work should be complete.

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