i3 | April 18, 2018

Inspiring Tomorrow's Innovators

Cindy Loffler Stevens
People and lightbulbs

Aditi Prasad, COO and CIO of Robotix Learning Solutions, is on a mission to inspire and educate young girls and boys how to code and develop solutions for real-world challenges. By harnessing the power of robotics, coding, STEM and Makerspaces — she aims to make school education more interactive and is promoting technical pathways that lead to better careers for girls in India. Ford Motor Company and Cisco Systems are also working with Robotix. Previously, she worked at the China Studies Center at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, attended law school at the Indian Law Society’s Law College in Pune, and earned her master’s degree at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Can you talk about Robotix?

We started Robotix in 2009 and we have been teaching robotics, coding and STEM in K-12 schools all over India. In 2014, we realized there was a gap in the market in terms of the kind of toys that were available. We launched on Kickstarter and were successfully funded. Our aim is to bring really fun, tangible coding toys for kids of all ages.

Can you talk about Indian Girls that Code?

We started Indian Girls that Code at an all-girls orphanage in a small city in the southern part of India. These girls were from a really harsh background — some of their parents were prisoners or they were victims of domestic abuse. We wanted to give these girls 21st century STEM skills that would set them apart in the future. We start with kids as young as four years, and we stay with them every year until they finish school. Our dream is to tie up with the corporate world and universities to really change their lives.

How are the girls reacting to this program?

Kids love playing. They are having so much fun with it. These kids have been learning with Scratch or playing with Lego Mindstorms, so they are already little creators and little innovators. They are coming to us and saying that they want to be engineers when they grow up. They want to create toys like this so they can make an impact for more girls in their communities.

Why aren’t more girls pursuing STEM education?

In our experience, it is parental bias, at least in India, where you would send your son to robotics class and send your daughter to music class. These are the challenges that we had in getting STEM kicked off, especially as an after school program. In school where the ratio is about 50/50 — boys and girls, we would not have a problem because it would be part of the school curriculum and they would learn together. But if you make it optional, the whole picture drastically changes. We are trying to slowly immerse it into the regular school curriculum so they are learning robotics through regular school subjects.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

Two words — risk taking. It’s a difficult path to take. It has its own challenges but take risks, dream big and live fearlessly.

What was your experience in Eureka Park at CES?

We launched two tangible, coding screen-free toys at CES: TACO Playbits and TACO Robobricks. We want to get kids as young as four excited about coding. They don’t need an iPad, mobile device or laptop. We have little coding chips and a magical wand, so you tap the code in using the sequence that you want to create. The physical structure is Lego Duplo mega blocks-compatible so we give you sensors like motors, touch sensors, IR sensors and color sensors that you add on to a Duplo creation, and once you tap the code into the remote control to play it, your creation comes to life. It’s basically getting them to understand how hardware and software interplay.

March/April 2018 i3 Cover Issue

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