Ricochet News

Northern Areas kids taught to turn common kites into drones

By Afikile Lugunya - Jul 19, 2018
Northern Areas kids taught to turn common kites into drones

Drones are the future, and kids from Port Elizabeth’s Northern Areas are now part of that future as they spent their weekends and school holidays working on enhancing their ‘drones’.

They learned their skills in a programme started by the Director of the Centre for Community Technologies, who is also a Professor of Information Technology (IT) at the Nelson Mandela University, Prof Darelle Van Greunen, in 2014.

The initiative aims to teach children about technology amongst other things – as well as keeping them out of social vices.

Van Greunen and her team saw an opportunity to enhance common kites after seeing children in the Northern Areas playing and making their own kites using scrap material.

“We started looking at it from a mathematical perspective as to how do we teach them how to build a kite properly, which entails dealing with wind resistance, how long should the tail be for the kite to stay in the air and so on,” she explained.

Prof Van Greunen adds that there is science and mathematics involved in kite making.

“We thought that we would bring cameras into the process so that they would make their own drones - so now they add cameras to their kites,” she said.

“We started with cell phone but they became undone.”

Prof Van Greunen said that, last year, she spoke at a conference about engineers where she mentioned the idea of turning simple kites into drones while she was making her speech about disruptive innovation that was held at San Francisco, in the United States.

“When I got back in South Africa, I got a call from one of the engineers, who works at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the US and said that they would like to work with us in teaching the kids how to make kites that can glide so that they can take proper footage.

“They have produced some video material that the children are now watching and this comes directly from the engineers at NASA in the United States,” she described.

On Thursday, children spent two hours at the Nelson Mandela University’s Missionvale Campus waiting for the wind – unfortunately; there was no wind to allow for their performances.

However, Afikile Sikwebo, from the Centre for Community Technologies, advised: “When you see children playing, ask them what they are playing, educate yourselves about what they are playing and think of ways to add innovation to it.”

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