Transforming education through technology

Tyrone van Balla, of Grassy Park, builds robots as educational tools.

Teaching children to build new robots, might sound like something out of a science fiction story, but it’s actually the model used by a local entrepreneur transforming the education sphere through robotic technology.

Grassy Park resident Tyrone van Balla’s start-up, RD9 Solutions, builds robots as educational tools. Along with his business partner, Ridhaa Benefeld, they designed a robot and curriculum, which offers a course in robotics and programming.

“We’ve always been inspired by technology, and we’re dedicated to making it as accessible to others as possible, so that they too may be inspired,” he says.

The start-up is a tech innovation company that aims to solve everyday problems with creative, cost-effective technological solutions. RD9 Solutions is currently operating in the ed-tech space offering an innovative and accessible platform through which programming, electronics and robotics are taught.

This platform feeds into the skills gap among the youth – programming, data science and big data are quickly shifting from being “buzzwords” to necessary skills needed for emerging fields.

“We make technology more accessible to the masses. We allow kids to be exposed to and learn about programming from a very young age. We allow the innovators and game-changers of tomorrow to get a head start on their careers today.”

Tyrone said he developed an interest in computers at a young age.

“I remember that while we may not have had much while I was growing up, I was also exposed to many new things and opportunities.

“While I didn’t own one, I had frequent access to a computer from about five years old. This opportunity sparked my love and interest for technology and influenced my career choice.”

His career has been supported by the Alan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellowship Programme, which he joined in 2011.

The programme is one of three the foundation offers, providing candidates with funding for university studies as well as access to support and development to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset.

“At the time I applied for the fellowship, I was mainly focused on finding a bursary. I knew my parents couldn’t afford my university fees, and I had set my mind on studying engineering. I was most intrigued by the idea of being among like-minded individuals with a similar drive for excellence,” says Tyrone.

“I am proud of the fact that I made the most of the opportunities I was presented with in life. In doing so, I am now in a position to motivate, empower and inspire others to achieve their goals, despite their circumstances or background,” he says.

RD9 Solutions has held a few pilots with various schools, among them South Peninsula High School, Pinelands High School and Wynberg Boys’ High School, and is currently working on building a platform that encourages self-learning and self-exploration of the concepts.

“I am passionate about teaching and empowering others. In five years, I see us expanding our offering not only across South Africa, but also throughout Africa. I see us making a lasting contribution to lives of the African youth through our work,” says Tyrone.