Michael Ettershank started teaching young people how to build robots,
because he was concerned about the education his child would be getting,
and also wants his child to grow up in a country where there is hope.
He believes young people should have fun while they acquire skills to be successful adults.
Michael and his primary school buddy
Adrian Sutton started making electronic gadgets way back in 1979.
In his high school holidays as a teenager Michael worked at the AUTODEK electronics factory in Doornfontein, learning as
much as he could from the technicians and reading mountains of magazines about how to make electronic stuff.
Michael graduated from Wits University in 1988 and Rhodes University in 1990.
In 1999 he moved to the USA where he worked for software company Demand Bridge Inc.
Returning to South Africa in 2000 he joined an educational
software company, in 2001 he started experimenting teaching kids electronics at the Kids Haven
shelter for homeless children in Benoni (a Nelson Mandela Childrens Fund charity).
Because these distressed children lost concentration with difficult and abstract concepts very easily,
Coach Michael started thinking about using low cost robots to help street kids concentrate.
Coach Michael imported a robot from the USA and then spent the next few years dissecting and rebuilding it
to see if he could lower the cost and make more interesting and affordable training available.
From 2008 Michael Ettershank gave robotics classes in the Pretoria area to encourage young
people to start learning and inventing.
Steven Walgenbach and Simon Maenaut were awarded their South African national colours and competed at
the World Robotics Olympiad 2011 in Abu Dhabi and then Malaysia in 2012.
Coach Michael ran a pilot robotics programme at the Gauteng Department of Education Sci-Bono Science Discovery Centre,
Newtown, Johannesburg, in 2012.
In 2013 Dylan Rheeders and Marco Pretorius, trained by Michael, were placed second in the
world at the WRO Indonesia. They beat the German team (sponsored by BMW AG!)
but were beaten by a team from the UAE where the government spends billions of
oil dollars on their high school robotics programme every year...
In 2014 the Shuttleworth Foundation made a grant available to the RobotScience project, which was used to train a group of disadvantaged teenagers at UJ TechnoLab.
From 2015-2017 the RobotScience project was hosted by UJ TechnoLab, but unfortunately the effects of the Fees Must Fall campaign were being felt by the universities and funding for RobotScience was withdrawn.
The RobotScience project is currently looking for a new sponsor so we can continue uplifting economically disadvantaged teenagers.
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