By supporting STEM initiatives, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and its partners help develop skills and innovative thinking in young people in the country’s regions, invest in improving their competitiveness in the labor market today and in the future. Photo courtesy of the ROBO&Kod Programming and Robotics Center.
Launching the ROBO&Kod Programming and Robotics Center in Maladziečna (Minsk Region) creates new opportunities for children to acquire STEM knowledge and skills (STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
According to the World Economic Forum, 9 out of 10 jobs will require digital skills in the future. By supporting STEM initiatives, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and its partners help develop skills and innovative thinking in young people in the country’s regions, invest in improving their competitiveness in the labour market today and in the future. Partnerships in this dimension also facilitate the implementation of the activities of the Education and Youth Policy State Program for 2021-2025, the National Gender Equality Action Plan for 2021-2025, and the Small and Medium Entrepreneurship State Program for 2021–2025.
Entrepreneur Yelena Sizova developed a training program and found a tutor who had taken courses on teaching robotics at the Belarusian State Pedagogical University in Minsk. Photo courtesy of the ROBO&Kod Programming and Robotics Centre.
Previously, Elena Sizova, like other residents of Maladziečna, used to take her son to programming and robotics classes in Minsk. The distance from Maladziečna to Minsk is 75 kilometres: commuting and classes can take a whole day. Not every family can afford this. Elena opened programming and robotics courses for children in her city to provide children in Maladziečna with the same opportunity for learning as in the capital city.
The entrepreneur developed a training program and found a tutor who had taken courses on teaching robotics at the Belarusian State Pedagogical University in Minsk. Elena rented a classroom at a local Trade and Economics College. The college could only provide rental equipment on certain days and times, and it was not always suitable for students. Nevertheless, the entrepreneur recruited several groups of students and started teaching. When facing difficult issues, she consulted with the STEM schools in Minsk.
The outcomes were spectacular. Children learned how to work in Kodu Game Lab, Scratch, Unity 3D, C#, 3Ds Max, Python, and performed well in robotics by using Lego EV3 and Lego We Do 2.0. Classes were in high demand, and rental time became scarce, and rental computers needed to be upgraded. However, there were not enough funds for expansion, and even more so for opening their own centre.
Nevertheless, Elena made her decision: she rented a stand-alone office and repaired it. Being supported by an international project, the entrepreneur procured new high-quality equipment and launched the ROBO&Kod Programming and Robotics Centre. The newly equipped stand-alone office allowed offering a convenient schedule to students. Once upgraded, the number of children attending the Centre grew from 50 to 135. The Centre expanded its teaching staff and the range of training courses. Now the Centre operates not only during school hours and days, but also during school holidays, when students can take various express courses and then choose what they will study in depth.
Educating girls in technology and digital skills is essential to ensure gender equality. Photo courtesy of the ROBO&Kod Programming and Robotics Centre.
Educating girls in technology and digital skills is essential to ensure gender equality. This is achieved by preparing girls for STEM and by ensuring gender-equal career opportunities in the professions of the future. To date, girls still make up only 12% of all children studying at the ROBO&Kod Center. The Centre plans to increase the participation of girls in its programs.
“We teach robotics to children, teach them how to design websites, develop games, mobile apps, teach such popular programming languages as C# and Python, design and 3D design, give them the opportunity to try themselves in various IT jobs and choose the profession of the future for themselves”, — says Elena Sizova, founder of the ROBO&Kod Programming and Robotics Centre.The initiative has been implemented under the project — Support to Economic Development at the Local Level in the Republic of Belarus — implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Belarus and funded by the European Union. From 2019 to 2022, the project supported 53 local initiatives coordinated by women. 15 new women-led businesses started up their operations.