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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Former student brings robotics program to girls school in Ghana

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Photo by Provided

A teacher uses a LEGO Mindstorms set to explain concepts of engineering to students in Accra, Ghana.

Judy Amanor-Boadu, Class of 2013, is giving back to her community with a girls robotics club in Ghana. 
Elementary school girls at Christ the King International School in Accra, Ghana, where Amanor-Boadu went to school, are exposed to engineering at a young age with a LEGO Mindstorms set donated by Texas A&M‘s Women in Engineering program. The LEGO kits are used because they incorporate multiple  aspects of engineering — mechanical, electrical and computer programming — into one educational tool, Amanor-Boadu said. The girls decide how to put the pieces together and program the brick or “brain” of the robot. 
The pilot program has experienced  considerable success, with more girls showing interest than the program can currently accommodate.
“There’s only one kit, so they have to turn so many students away because you can’t have 50 kids working on one project,” Amanor-Boadu said.
Expanding the program is a slow process, but Amanor-Boadu said the group is making the most of their resources.
“It’s mostly a funding challenge,” Amanor-Boadu said. “It costs $1,000 to $1,600 for a whole kit, but a [programmable] brick is much cheaper, around $500, and you can have many girls programming if there are multiple bricks.”
The skills the girls acquire can help them in high school, college and beyond. 
The teachers involved in the program are looking to form a team to compete in an international robotics competition, but Amanor-Boadu said the club alone is already proving beneficial to the girls’ education.
“It’s about solving a problem,” Amanor-Boadu said. “I believe last year the topic was hydrodynamics, but they are given a problem that the LEGO kits can be used for and let their imagination run. Girls who knew nothing have been able to pick up the fundamentals and run with it.”
Based on their exam results, Ghanaian junior high students are put into a specific educational track, such as business, visual arts or science. Students  choose a specific field of study within that track. The robotics program can spark an interest in engineering careers early on before they have to make that decision.
“The goal is to spawn interest about the whole engineering subject and help initiate interest in robotics,” Amanor-Boadu said. “It would’ve been nice to have that when I was in school, so I want to help the next generation.”
Amanor-Boadu received her master’s and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from A&M and now works for Intel. She was involved in Women in Engineering and led the autonomous underwater vehicle team during her time at A&M. 
Amanor-Boadu said she saw a need to prove the worth of studying engineering, especially in Ghana, where pursuing medicine is often valued above other scientific career paths. 
“There are so many opportunities out there and problems that need brilliant minds to solve them,” Amanor-Boadu said. “They’re not limited to medical school. Go out there and make the world a better place.”

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