Private aid sought as P9-M budget cut puts DOST’s robotics program in peril

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By Ylexis Kyle-Michael Rualo

The Science Education Institute (SEI) of the Department of Science and Technology has appealed for financial aid from the private sector to sustain its ?Tagisang Robotics? program amid a P9-million cut on the SEI?s budget for 2015.

SEI manpower education research head Ruby Cristobal
SEI manpower education research head Ruby Cristobal

For this year, SEI allotted P4 million for the program from its total budget of P15 million. However, Tagisang Robotics may not return in 2015 due to the SEI receiving a budget of only P6 million for all its projects.

The project needs about P5 million to P6 million in the coming year to sponsor more schools to participate and provide more advanced technology for the students, according to DOST-SEI manpower education research head Ruby Cristobal.

Left to fend for itself, Cristobal said the division is turning to the private sector for partnership due to the government?s lack of investment in the country?s robotics industry.

She said the SEI has been able to carry out projects despite the lack of budget, through public-private partnerships. It recently partnered with the Hyundai Asia Resources Foundation for its science and technology summer camp and in providing more scholarship opportunities for deserving students.

Tagisang Robotics was established to raise the interest of students in science and technology through hands-on experience, instill to the participants the value of teamwork, help the students develop their logical and systematic thinking skills, and widen the youth?s view in the application of science and technology.

It is open to teams from the Philippine Science High School campuses, public and private science high schools, science and technology-oriented high schools and other private high schools.

Launched in 2011 and conducted annually, the Tagisang Robotics is the Philippines?s first and only varsity-type robotics competition.

Cristobal said robotics products of Filipino students are more advanced than that of their Australian counterparts, adding that Australia has no inter-school robotics program comparable to Tagisang Robotics.

If it is able to sustain the project, Cristobal said the next stage is to invite schools willing to take part in establishing a Visayan league. Another goal would be to sponsor more schools coming from disadvantaged areas to give them exposure, she said.

Tagisang Robotics? workshop and technical training were held last May. The robot building phase will last from July to September, while the actual games will be staged in October.

Thirty eight schools participated in this year?s tournament. But due to the lack of budget, SEI was not able to sponsor new teams to join.

According to Cristobal, SEI?s goal is to raise the number of students venturing into the science and engineering courses to build the pool of future innovators.

In the robotics industry, the Philippines has the resources, people, and talent but there is not much investment coming from the government, she said.

Cristobal said the Philippines should aim for higher growth in engineering education and production, especially in industries that matter. Growth in robotics can benefit the industrial, health, academic and tourism sectors, she added.

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