Megan Furter and Paula van Zyl programme their way to Robotic Nationals

Robotics is a interdisciplinary branch of engineering and science. Including mechanical engineering, electronics engineering and computer science, this is often considered a male dominated world.

Who is to argue? After all, aren’t the heroes of science fiction movies with robots in it male? Then there is Andy Rubin, SVP Mobile at Google, who is virtually synonymous with the android smartphone world. We also can’t forget about Colin Angle, the CEO of iRobot. Plus, there is Rodney Brooks, founder of Rethink Robotics and Panasonic Professor of Robotics at MIT.

Yet, there are women who are no strangers in conquering this once male dominated world. Such as Cynthia Breazeal, director of MIT Media’s Lab Personal Robots Group.

Locally, Megan Furter and Paula van Zyl are breaking stereotypes, proving that nothing can defeat a motivated, intelligent woman. The St Dominics Newcastle duo recently competed at the annual KZN Regional round for the World Robotic Olympiad (WRO), hosted by Mt Richmore in Ballito.

robotics, Newcastillian

Competing against the brightest young minds in KwaZulu-Natal, the two young girls clinched a gold medal each with their robot, Bartholomew.

“Before going to Ballito, we built our robot and programmed it before taking him apart again. Once there, we rebuilt our robot. We were allowed to take our programme on a flash drive and reprogrammed Bartholomew again,” explains Megan.

Determined to prove their worth, Megan and Paula put their robot through its paces. Quickly gaining acknowledgment from judges for their performance.

“There are different ways to get points, from its ability to perform tasks to its size,” Megan adds.

With their exceptional performance, the duo will now make their way to the national championships of WRO later this month in Pretoria. At present, they rank 13th position in South Africa leading to the nationals.

“We are excited and extremely happy about our achievements,” Megan claims.

But, what drives them to excel in robotics?

Paula explains this is her first year in robotics, joining the class out of passion for the subject. “I really enjoy robotics, even the difficult parts. You learn a lot through it.”

Megan began robotics in Grade 8, excelling to the point that she participated in her first robotics competition in 2017.

“I love everything about robotics. But, my favourite part is designing and building,” she says.

Well done to Megan Furter and Paula van Zyl for engineering a bright future in the world robotics.


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