[Written in partnership with MaGIC, but the editorial team had full control over the content.]
My primary school offered robotics classes as an extracurricular activity, and what interested me in joining was the fact that I’d get to build robots with LEGOs. Later on, they held a robotics camp, where I won my first and only trophy ever in my schooling years.
While I was privileged to have the exposure to such niche STEM lessons as a kid growing up in PJ, the same can’t be said for those in other states.
In 2019, mechanical engineer Dzulfarqeish (Dzul), was looking for a place where his son could learn robotics. Unfortunately, none were easily available as there were no robotics learning centres around Terengganu.
Dzul himself is fond of this subject as it was something he was trained in during his university days. “I was even in the ROBOCON team where I represented my university in Robocon and Eurobots (Europe Robotics Competition) in Germany and France,” he proudly shared.
So, along with 2 other co-founders Yasser Rabanie and Khoirun Nisah who held backgrounds in robotics, programming, and branding, they launched JAZRO, a robotics education company for children.
Making robotics accessible
Gathering like minded individuals, JAZRO started as a voluntary entity to help younger generations and communities in Kemaman, Terengganu. Taking into consideration the living cost for those in the region, monthly fees were set as affordable as possible.
By 2020, the programme was established as JAZRO TECHNOLOGY ROBOTICS Sdn Bhd.
Pre-pandemic, physical classes were held as an after school activity for the students where equipment including robots and tablets was provided to make participating more accessible. Participants were never obligated to purchase their own robotics kits either.
“We did a lot of demonstrations of robots in schools before the pandemic. We taught our students in physical classrooms in our academy located in Kerteh, Kuala Terengganu, Dungun, and Chukai,” Dzul explained.
Despite having plans to open more JAZRO branches in Kuantan and Kota Bharu, MCO delayed them and forced classes online, so the team now teaches its students via Zoom meetings.
How do you learn robotics without robots?
The biggest challenge for JAZRO during the MCO was teaching robotics classes to students who didn’t have their own robots to learn with. Dzul expressed, “How can you learn robotics class without hardware, right?”
During virtual classes, the philosophy of never making kids buy their own hardware against their will was maintained.
“So, we introduced our students to a simulation application so that they could simulate the coding they learnt. We found the students enjoyed learning in this environment too,” Dzul observed.
JAZRO was able to find a new way to pivot its classes online during MCO 2.0, and built an e-learning platform for robotics by MCO 3.0.
Pivoting its classes and finding new ways to sustain the business during the pandemic was crucial for JAZRO. This is because there wouldn’t be a guarantee that education would return to physical sessions in the new normal, or even after herd immunity was achieved.
Dzul added with a positive outlook, “On the good side of things, by moving to online classes, we are able to reach more students outside of Terengganu and the East Coast.”
Primarily targeting students in K-12 categories, JAZRO is extending its accommodation to children as young as 5-6 years old. To date, Dzul reported that they’ve taught around 900 K-12 students and have embedded their robotics modules in a few boarding and private schools around Terengganu.
Following their efforts, the team is also seeing interest from Indonesian international private schools planning to incorporate their modules in their syllabuses.
To market its programmes to students, JAZRO will host free webinars and demo robotics classes on a regular basis. “We will also conduct a weekly webinar talking about technology and digital sharing for parents, teachers and school students,” shared Dzul.
The robotics enthusiast is confident in JAZRO’s model, as he believes their course fees and robotics kits (for those who want them) are affordable for even B40 groups, making it easier to attract students and parents. Ranging between RM50 to RM360, the platform’s programmes include subjects like coding, 3D design, and game making, to name a few.
Finding an edge in a saturated space
It’s no question that edutech has been growing into an extremely competitive landscape since COVID-19 hit our shores. In fact, Dzul even stated that the value for edutech globally is worth US$106 billion in 2021 alone.
To make a dent in this space and hit his target of attaining a 10% market share in Malaysia’s edutech scene, JAZRO’s team is planning to open a physical robotics academy in Kuala Terengganu, Kuantan, and Kota Bharu.
“Digital literacy is very huge in this region. Using our robotics e-learning platform, we plan to expand our robotics and coding classes into Indonesia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Philippines,” said Dzul. Being a part of MaGIC’s Global Accelerator Programme (GAP) in Cohort 5 will likely open JAZRO up to expansion opportunities, as Dzul has been able to network with investors and promote his edutech solution.
He hopes that the lessons on the platform can prepare students to enter international robotics competitions as part of JAZRO’s programme.
As a STEM initiative in Malaysia’s Education Blueprint 2013-2025 aims to ensure that Malaysia has a sufficient number of qualified STEM graduates, we asked Dzul to share his two cents on how we can achieve that.
We still have a few gaps where our industry is not ready to hire STEM graduates as we need to create more technology companies such as Apple, Tesla, Google, and so on. Besides, our teachers’ skills and knowledge need to be further upgraded and trained, where the Ministry of Education needs to develop a comprehensive training plan for teachers to gain knowledge on STEM education.Dzulfarqeish, founder and CEO of JAZRO
Featured Image Credit: Dzulfarqeish, founder and CEO of JAZRO