- Steve Wozniak’s Woz ED will begin offering virtual robotics courses to K-12 schools across the US.
- The education program agreed a deal with Irish startup Robotify to license the courses.
- Woz ED and Robotify hope to prepare the next generation of students for the advent of automation.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak’s education programme will start teaching schoolkids across the US how to design and code robots remotely in a bid to prepare the next generation for the advent of automation.
Woz ED, which offers a series of courses to more than 3,500 K-12 schools across the US, has agreed a deal with Irish virtual robotics startup Robotify. The deal will allow students to control and code robots in a browser, eliminating some of the need for schools to spend on physical units.
Automation could displace as many as 800 million jobs worldwide as robots assume roles that were typically assigned to humans, according to a study by McKinsey. Many workers in the current workforce will need to reskill or upskill to participate in the so-called “fourth industrial revolution”.
Adam Dalton, the chief executive and cofounder of Robotify, said there were “huge applications” for the company’s technology as more of the world shifts towards automation.
“As governments start to look at the future of work, in the next 20 or 30 years there is going to be a huge amount of automation occurring,” he told Insider.
“We think Robotify as technology could be pivotal in that transformation journey to make sure we’re bringing people along with us in the age of widespread robotics automation.”
Students can control and design robots in a browser using so-called “block coding”. This allows students to drag and drop commands into their robots, giving them an insight into how they work in the outside world.
The 22-year old said there had been a lot of “scaremongering” around robotics to date and that the reality of robots was unlikely to be a “Wall-E device driving around”, in reference to Disney’s 2008 animated hit.
“With automation, I can see a future whereby you don’t need to know how these robots necessarily do everything, you won’t need to be a complete robotics engineer because these robots have AI that can do that themselves,” he said.
“But what we’re going to need is people that understand how to service these robots, people that know how to understand why something is happening.”
Robotify, which counts Hostelworld founder Ray Nolan among its backers, will provide its software to Woz ED as part of the deal. To date, the company has around 100 hours of robotics training built. Woz ED plans to dramatically increase the robotics courses available as well as introduce a specific focus on autonomous drones.
Wozniak said he was “impressed” by how Robotify had made coding engaging and accessible.
“By virtualizing the technology more young people will have the opportunity to learn and explore,” he said.
“Both Woz ED and Robotify focus on ensuring young learners are job-ready for the most in demand tech sector openings. We provide learners with the opportunity to engage in authentic projects to help them understand what work they love and excel at.”
Dalton, who founded the company alongside his schoolmate Evan Darcy, revealed the business is also in talks to license courses to the Boy Scouts of America, as well as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The date, Robotify has raised around $1 million with further raises on the horizon.
“As a company, what we want to achieve is eventually become the fairtrade mark of robotics,” he said.
“We want to be that brand that if you see our name on a box, or a robot, or on a website, you know what that company stands for.”
Dalton said there was a “big opportunity” to provide robotics training at scale for the first time due to fact that students could now learn remotely.
“We’re not saying everyone has to become a robotics engineer or a coder, because there’s need for soft skills now more than ever,” he said.
“What we’re saying is that by engaging with these topics at a young age, it makes the future less scary.”
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