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Winning national robot competition, Jordanian young people eying Egypt for pan-Arab championship

Underprivileged children benefit from training at Ammar Malhas Technology Centre

By Renad Aljadid - Mar 12,2018 - Last updated at Mar 12,2018

The RoboIbdaa team poses for a group photo at the Ammar Malhas Technology Centre recently (Photo by Osama Aqarbeh)

AMMAN — The Jordanian team "RoboIbdaa" will take part in the 11th Arab Robotics Championship (ARC) in Egypt after winning the first place at the robot performance track of the 13th National Robotics Competition on Sunday.

The 11th ARC will be held in Egypt's South Sinai governorate of Sharm El Sheikh from March 23 to 26. The competition, open to all Arab states, was launched in 2008 with the aim of arousing participants' interest in technologies, maths, science and engineering, according to the ARC website.

The RoboIbdaa or "RoboCreativity" team, consisting of four girls and three boys aged between 15 and 16 years old, has been working on their project for the past six months with the help of three trainers.

Held under the theme of "Hydrodynamics", this year's ARC requires participants to solve a real-world problem through a hydrodynamic project, as well as to build, test, and programme an autonomous robot to solve a set of missions in the Robot Game, according to the website.

"The team members come from rural areas to receive their training in the capital as most of them are students from less fortunate schools, where resources are very limited," Maha Darwish, president of the Ibdaa Foundation, said. 

The RoboIbdaa members previously won the first place at the 2014's First Lego League (FLL) in the US and received four trophies in the 2015's FLL season.

The team members are changed every year since 2014, when the Ibdaa Foundation first established Ammar Malhas Technology Centre, a robotics training centre for disadvantaged school students.

"I am not funding the centre with money, but with hope," Ammar Malhas, the businessman who funds the centre, told The Jordan Times in an interview 

"Instead of leaving these young people at risk of perversity, they will utilise their time and potential in something useful," he said, adding that "the main purpose of the centre is to prepare a generation of thinkers and problem solvers, not only to teach them how to design and program robots".

The victories RoboIbdaa has achieved so far are "a real worthwhile investment", according to Malhas.

"These young people are the future of Jordan and, with such initiatives, we are building our country, which is not only the land, but also the people and their minds," the businessman stressed. 

The previous team members, who are currently university students and graduates, have become trainers at the centre, assisting this year's team and providing free-of-charge training sessions to a large number of other disadvantaged students.

"Sharing the knowledge we gained is the least we can offer in return. All students deserve to have the opportunity to learn about this newly emerging industry: robotics," said Mohammad Abu Fares, one of the trainers.

"There is really nothing called 'unlucky'. Opportunities are everywhere, waiting for someone to hunt them and use them," Rahaf Zorba, one of the team members, said.

"We were completely ignorant about the subject matter at first but, with hard work and dedication, we were able to win, not only the first place, but also a profound knowledge and an unforgettable experience," Nourhan Gharabli, another member, said. 

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