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Astana, Kazakhstan • 21 December 2023

Robotic Revolution in Kazakhstan: A Deep Dive into Academic Programs and Achievements

From classrooms to competitions: how Kazakhstan nurtures the development of robotic education

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Thomas Noah
Thomas Noah

Kazakhstan places a significant emphasis on advancing its educational landscape, particularly in the realms of technical and scientific majors within universities. The government allocates a substantial number of university grants annually to support the development and enhancement of programs in these fields, recognizing the pivotal role they play in fostering innovation and driving economic growth.

Among these prioritized majors, robotics engineering stands out as one of the most future-proof and in-demand disciplines in contemporary society. Recognizing the transformative potential of robotics in various industries, Kazakhstan has devoted considerable attention and resources to this field, ensuring that its universities offer cutting-edge education and research opportunities in robotics engineering. By doing so, Kazakhstan is not only preparing its students for the challenges of tomorrow but also positioning itself at the forefront of technological advancements in the global arena. This strategic focus on nurturing expertise in robotics engineering aligns with the nation's commitment to staying competitive in the rapidly evolving landscape of science and technology.

Kazakhstan’s view of the area can be well summarized by the words of President Tokayev in 2019 during the meeting at Seifullin University in Astana: "Robotics, digitalization and artificial intelligence are a reality of modern life, especially in developed countries. Therefore, we should by no means be left behind."

QazMonitor analyzed how robotics engineering is represented in Kazakhstan’s current academic landscape.

Nurturing innovation from an early age

Before we delve into how robotics is supported at higher education organizations in Kazakhstan, it must be noted that the interest in this area quite often sparks at an early age, since the country has extensive measures to ignite it. The country has many private robotic schools as well as robot classes in public schools. As for larger-scale support, there is the Foundation for Robotics Development in Kazakhstan and Central Asia called USTEM, which is the operator of FIRST programs in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Youth in Kazakhstan have demonstrated significant success in robotics on the global stage. Just to name a few achievements, in 2023, Kazakh teams secured medals at the World Robot Olympiad in Panama, with three teams winning silver and bronze in different categories. In June, Kazakh schoolchildren excelled at the FIRST LEGO League in Massachusetts, winning bronze medals. A year earlier, in December 2022, students showcased impressive performance at the SAF-2022 robotics festival in Baku, earning seven trophies at the VEX Robotics Competition. Furthermore, in October 2022, Kazakh schoolchildren achieved first place in three categories at the FIRST Global Challenge in Geneva, setting records and earning gold medals. These achievements highlight the consistent and remarkable success of Kazakh youth in the field of robotics over multiple years, fostering opportunities for education and recognition on an international level.

Another good testament to how robotics field is being developed in our country today is the dedicated exhibition zone at the Digital Bridge Forum in 2023 – probably, the largest IT and innovation event of the year. The area had a special field for robots implementing different tasks programmed by young engineers some of whom are the members of the Kazakhstan national robotics team, champions of many competitions. Among the organizations presented at the exhibition were the Ustem Foundation, Alem School, MakerSpace, and others. During the 2022 rendition of the forum, the attendees were thrilled by talking robots — probably the flashiest part of this section of the expo, and even more initiatives by robotic schools for youth from around the country presenting their ideas and developments.

Digital Bridge 2022, photo by QazMonitor
Digital Bridge 2022, photo by QazMonitor

Laboratories

Robotics engineering is in high demand across various industries today, including manufacturing, healthcare, logistics, agriculture, space exploration, service sectors, defense, and research. Its applications range from automating industrial processes and enhancing healthcare procedures to improving agricultural practices and supporting space exploration.

Speaking of practical applications and research, it is important to note that at some universities in Kazakhstan, the field has been actively developed for several years.

While many achievements have been made in the last 2-3 years, even before the pandemic, back in 2016, Karaganda Buketov University opened the “Robotics and Intelligent Machine” laboratory. IT initially focused on designing and assembling unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with specific functionalities. The UAV lineup included a glider, two hexacopters, a quadcopter, and a folding quadcopter. Collaborating with the history faculty, the lab conducted joint research involving photo and video documentation of the Kzyl-Kent temple for a broader project. In three years, the addition of the student design bureau expanded the laboratory's activities. The lab's scientific endeavors now extend to the development and production of automated and robotized installations.

Another recent milestone entails the inauguration of the collaborative research and development laboratory, named the "R&D Laboratory of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics," jointly established by Turan University and the U.A. Joldasbekov Institute of Mechanics and Engineering in January 2023. The unveiling event showcased remarkable achievements from the Joldasbekov Institute, including a series of service medical robots, a collection of five training robot simulators featuring innovative manipulators, and a compilation of electronic multimedia textbooks focusing on machine mechanics and robotics.

Freepik/frimufilms
Freepik/frimufilms

Academic Programs

As technology continues to advance, the role of robotics engineering is becoming increasingly pivotal in driving efficiency, precision, and innovation across diverse sectors, making it a crucial and in-demand field in modern society. Hence, several universities in Kazakhstan offer extensive programs in robotics engineering.

For example, Turan University has a full 4-year bachelor’s program called Intellectual Robotics. The curriculum includes specialized courses covering software for mechatronic and robotic systems, robotic operating systems, programming of robotic systems, technical vision, recognition systems, organization of complex business security systems, industrial robot control systems, intelligent robot control, as well as topics in IT business, entrepreneurship, and internet business models.

Another prominent example is “Robotics Engineering, Bachelor of Science” program at Nazarbayev University. Launched in 2011/12 academic year, the curriculum integrates advanced technologies to equip students for creative problem-solving across multiple disciplines. Emphasizing practical experience, it encompasses mechanical, electrical, computer, and systems engineering, meeting the growing demand for skilled professionals in defense, healthcare, automation, and entertainment. Graduates have opportunities as Robotics Engineers, Technicians, or can engage in research, contributing to the dynamic field of robotics.

Some other examples of similar programs include majors offered by Farabi University (Robotic Systems), Kazakh-British Technical University (Robotics and mechatronics), Almaty Technological University (Robots and Robotic Systems), KEEU (Robotic Systems), and others.

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