January 2017—Every morning, Andrei Copaci, a 13-year old boy from Chisinau, Moldova, starts his day by programming a robot. At breakfast, he trains it to pass the vegetables or to solve a Rubik’s Cube. For his school and community, he has built and programmed robots to perform energy-efficient tasks such as turning lights on and off.
Andrei’s passion for technology was ignited by RoboClub—an educational robotics initiative implemented by the USAID Moldova Competitiveness Project. RoboClub, which started in 2014 as a small pilot in six schools, was quickly embraced by teachers and children as well as the Moldovan Ministry of Education, and grew to include 76 schools in 40 localities all over Moldova. Through RoboClub, Andrei and a team of other students participated in the prestigious FIRST LEGO League international robotics competition held last year in Spain.
“I dream of becoming an IT engineer and I know technology can change the world. Now, I just play with robots, but I am being challenged to create robots that will be of use for the entire society,” says Andrei.
He has already envisioned the practical application of the robots he programs. For example, a robot that identifies objects by color and shape could be used to sort goods in warehouses, factories and stores. Andrei also designed a robot that can move and balance along suspended lengths of metallic rope and could be used by firefighters to extinguish fires in areas that are difficult to access or pose significant risk to human health and life. He has also identified a solution for the health sector by programming a robot that carries out rhythmic movements, thus helping patients with mobility problems through physical therapy exercises.
Through the RoboClub initiative, over 170 schoolteachers and librarians have been trained to teach robotics to over 4,000 students in over 50 urban and rural communities of Moldova.
With USAID’s support, Moldovan authorities are working on developing the country’s economy, one of the poorest in Europe, by improving competitiveness and efficiency in key industries, including IT (information technology). Today the industry provides jobs to over 20,000 coders and engineers, but it faces the challenge of educating a skilled workforce. USAID’s innovative initiative to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education introduces children 10-18 years old to programming, coding and engineering and empowers them to pursue careers in IT.
USAID’s Moldova Competitiveness Project, which runs from 2015 to 2020, supports the country’s efforts to promote a strong, diverse and export-oriented economy. It focuses on the tourism, textile and ICT sectors to increase incomes, alleviate poverty and reduce emigration.
Last updated: January 27, 2017