A Fund that Makes Great Initiatives Possible
The Regional Fund for Digital Innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean (FRIDA) has been supporting research programs and projects for seven years. During this time, FRIDA has financed 70 different experiences aimed at promoting and increasing the generation and application of knowledge through the use of Information and Communication Technologies (TICs).
The Omar Dengo Foundation of Costa Rica is one of the organizations that received FRIDA funds for two of its research projects, one relating to low-cost robotics, the other to learning state-of-the-art technologies. Both initiatives –recipients of the XXI Century Strategy Award presented by the President of Costa Rica– were extremely successful and had a very positive social impact on the children and youngsters of Costa Rica.
By Ana Lourdes Acuña*
The Omar Dengo Foundation and FundaVida were seeking to expand their learning programs for children and youngsters in at-risk areas to include state-of-the-art technology. We did not, however, have the resources to fund the necessary investment. Then we learned about the FRIDA program and decided to nominate our project titled “Creative construction modules for children and youngsters with Robotics”.
This project began in 2003 with the research that allowed us to design and validate a teaching methodology for building low-cost robotics based on which students could develop their design skills, creativity and technological capabilities by becoming involved with ICTs, especially in the field of robotics.
The methodology and the three FundaVida centers continue to use the educational proposal supported by FRIDA, benefiting other children and youngsters of the region. In 2010 the initiative received an HP Grant that allowed acquiring additional computer infrastructure to these learning centers, thus expanding the number of beneficiaries and generating further experiences in the field of robotics.
As a complement to this initiative, the need was identified for educators and professionals to be better trained in educational robotics teaching processes and to share results and progress in this field. To this end, in 2009 we once again received FRIDA’s support for the project titled “Developing capabilities for the design and implementation of educational robotics projects in Latin America and the Caribbean”.
This new research process generated meeting spaces as well as the first social knowledge network –the Latin American Robotics Network– which currently has more than 230 members from different Latin American countries. Various workshops, discussions, publications, and other forms of exchange that allow us to share and remain up to date on a daily basis are frequently organized through this platform (http://redrobotica.org/ ).
Our experience shows that the FRIDA Fund provides a window of opportunity for initiatives and ideas which, after receiving financial support, can be catapulted and become consolidated in various countries of the region as a space for promoting the use of digital technologies as educational proposals having a strong impact and directly benefitting different populations.
* Leader of the Omar Dengo Foundation’s Robotics and Learning project with FRIDA.