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How a Robot Design Competition Can Improve Education, Not Only in Egypt

We talk to Mohammed ElRaffie, founder of CORD and an Ashoka fellow who believes in inducing creativity through science education. His startup is now a semi-finalist at the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition, an opportunity to push him “towards the productive science communication brand we hope to offer,” he says.

Tell us a little bit about Cord and the Robot Design Competition.

CORD started and evolved as a response to some specific needs in the field of education; we wanted to provide inexpensive solutions for people to be inspired with their own abilities to make, adding a twist of practical learning.

In 2007, we kicked off with the Competition of Robot Design, a student activity in one of Egypt’s Engineering campuses, and expanded in three years across Egypt to different campuses, inspiring more engineers but attracting non-technical backgrounds as well.

What’s your biggest achievement?

We had week long trip to Tunisia where we delivered newly developed 3 Robotics Labs, designed to be the simplest gate for users interested in making a dynamic electronic innovation. We also provided workshops and delivered a forth lab for an NGO working on education enhancement for teenagers. In one week, we were able to deliver a crash orientation program, and after we left, the users sent us samples of how they could create their own innovations using what we taught them.

And the biggest difficulty you face?

The social perspective of CORD’s work towards doing a systemic change on how we learn and why, often dictates that we tackle different sides of the problem at the same time. We try to talk to different target groups, with different languages to show the benefit of what we do to the whole system. That caused the team to be always stretched to its limits trying to keep up. We capitalize on the same pool of knowledge but, to reach sustainability through linking different market groups while benefiting everyone, that is the challenge.

What are your expectations about participating in the MIT Forum competition?

We believe in our products, and as hard as the competition is with different amazing social innovations, we believe we have what it takes to induce the highest social benefit at an equally high potential of business sustainability. We hope to make as much friends and business partners while showcasing what we have, and get as much constructive feedback as possible.

For more information: Visit Cords website and keep up with the competition on Twitter through @MITEFarab.

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Valentina Primo

Journalist, globetrotter, and determined idealist. Since Valentina left her home country of Argentina, she has searched for ways to build bridges between cultures and foster dialogue. Her previous work in international organizations in Italy and Germany fed her passion for the world of development, while her 8-year journalistic experience in Argentina and Egypt increased her curiosity for everything that challenges the stereotype. She holds a BA in Journalism and a Masters in Peace Studies with a specialization in Human Rights.

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