South African entrepreneur seeks to use robotics to transform education

June 28, 2019 • Artificial Intelligence, Education, Southern Africa

Tyrone van Balla, Co-Founder of RD9 Solutions

Tyrone van Balla, Co-Founder of RD9 Solutions

A young South African entrepreneur aims to use a robot to teach children how to build new robots. RD9 Solutions is a start-up company created by Tyrone van Balla. van Balla and his business partner Ridhaa Benefeld aim to build robots and use them as educational tools. Together, they have designed a robot and a curriculum that offers a course in programming and robotics.

“We’ve always been inspired by technology, and we’re dedicated to making it as accessible to others as possible, so that they too may be inspired,” van Bala said. RD9 Solutions is a tech innovation company that strives to find answers to everyday challenges by developing creative and cost-effective solutions. The start-up company currently operates in the ed-tech space and offers an accessible and innovative platform through which topics as electronics, programming and robotics can be taught.

This platform aims to fill the skill gap among South Africa’s youth as in today’s current society phrases and words such as ‘programming,’ ‘big data’ and ‘data science’ are fast becoming vital skills that are needed in preparation for emerging fields. “We make technology more accessible to the masses. We allow kids to be exposed to and learn about programming from a very young age. We allow the innovators and game-changers of tomorrow to get a head start on their careers today,” van Balla comments.

Miia, a robotics platform designed by RD9 Solutions to educate the youth about robotics and programming.

Miia, a robotics platform designed by RD9 Solutions to educate the youth about robotics and programming.

van Balla grew up in Grassy Park, Cape Town, where he developed an interest in computers at a young age. “I remember that while we may not have had much while I was growing up, I was also exposed to many new things and opportunities. While I didn’t own one, I had frequent access to a computer from about five years old. This opportunity sparked my love and interest [for] technology and influenced my career choice,” van Balla says about his early years.

van Balla joined the Alan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellowship in 2011, which helped support his career. The Fellowship Programme is one of three programmes that the Foundation offers in order to help young entrepreneurs jump-start their careers. The Foundation offers Fellowship recipients funding for their university studies, as well as access to development and support to help the recipients develop an entrepreneurial mindset. These programmes take place throughout the entirety of the academic year in tandem with the Candidate Fellow’s university studies.

“At the time I applied for the Fellowship, I was mainly focused on finding a bursary. I knew my parents couldn’t afford my university fees, and I had set my mind on studying engineering. I was most intrigued by the idea of being among like-minded individuals with a similar drive for excellence. The Fellowship fosters a solid foundation for your personal growth, while university fosters your academic growth,” van Balla says.

van Balla believes that the Fellowship is more than a funding scholarship. He sees it as an opportunity for entrepreneurial and personal growth.

Ridhaa Benefeld, Co-Founder of RD9 Solutions.

Ridhaa Benefeld, Co-Founder of RD9 Solutions.

“I am proud of the fact that I made the most of the opportunities I was presented with in life. In doing so, I am now in a position to motivate, empower and inspire others to achieve their goals, despite their circumstances or background,” van Balla says.

RD9 Solutions has conducted a few pilot programmes with different schools and institutions. The company is currently working to build a platform that will encourage and foster self-learning and self-exploration of the different terms and concepts. “I am passionate about teaching and empowering others. In five years, I see us expanding our offering not only across South Africa, but also throughout Africa. I see us making a lasting contribution to [the] lives of the African youth through our work,” van Balla comments.

Edited by Kojo Essah

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