Joshua Olaiya
Tech - 3 weeks ago

Meet Nigeria’s Joshua Olaiya, a 19-Year-Old Self-taught Robotics Engineer 

Joshua Olaiya is one of Nigeria’s prodigies creating his own path in the robotic world despite the financial constraint. Olaiya refused to be defined by this and made something of his interest in robotics, bringing him to the limelight.

This was made possible by his unrelenting tenacity and coupled with the passion and interest he has in embedded systems, the Internet of Things (IoT), and drones. 

This started in his formative years. During this stage, he was curious about technology. It developed into a passion for the field and birthed his creativity and innovativeness. 

This made him dismantle and repair electrical gadgets in his house. All in the bid to understand technology better. The hands-on practice further fuelled the Lagos-born and bred Olaiya’s interest in robotics as he gradually became of age.

So, he searched for schools that could help harness his skills and interest in robotics. Though he found Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Nigeria, it was futile as the fees were expensive and could not be afforded by his parents. He could neither afford the nine-month course nor the short courses.

The self-taught path to robotics engineering

Joshua Olaiya started this journey at the age of thirteen, giving him six years of experience in the field. Instead of giving up due to financial constrain at the initial stage, Olaiya taught his way to success.

He said, “Their fee was so expensive. My mother, the sole provider for our family, does not earn that much money. I then decided to be self-taught and self-sponsored”. He achieved this by dedicating hours to watching YouTube videos on robotics.

Gradually, he knows his onions. As an autodidact robotics engineer, he created many robotics projects. His first robotic design was an autonomous electric vehicle.

He said, “I believe vehicles using artificial intelligence or machine learning would solve that problem. That was why I decided to build it. It moves by itself and swerves whenever it sees an obstacle”.

He went on to build a hand gesture robot. He said, “It is one of the most complex innovations I have ever built. The innovation took nearly a year of research to build. It is a wirelessly controlled robot that will be useful for many applications like remote surveillance. The hand gesture robot can help physically challenged people. I believe this innovation can eliminate a lot of manual labour and make life easier for those who are not as fortunate as the rest of us”. This was followed by a sound switch project and a cargo mobility robot.

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His invention garnered attraction on social media and created a platform for Olaiya. Oliya’s knowledge and mastery in the field gained him visibility on LinkedIn with over 20,000 followers.

His work also received recognition from notable people such as Hollywood actor Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) and Richard Browning, the inventor of a ‘jet suit’.

Challenges

Just as the socio-economic standing of Nigeria affects other inventors, Joshua Olaiya is not left out. This ranges from unstable electricity supply to expensive and poor internet facilities.

Since his projects require and depend on extensive data, the high internet price hampers his projects. This also affects his online study and research as he is a self-taught robotic engineer.

Also, he lacks material as he constructs it all from scratch. Some materials are expensive and unavailable in the country, so he sources them through Ali Express. 

He said, “I get some materials from AliExpress, which are always expensive depending on the project. I can spend up to N100,000 for some projects”.

Despite these challenges, Olaiya forges ahead with a vision of launching his company and creating a utopian world. Still then, he continues to learn and expand his horizon.

He said, “Robotics is a very vast field. It requires a lot of potential and readiness to learn. It is a complex field whereby people try and solve problems and fail. The more you learn, the less your likelihood of failing. Teaming up with colleagues is also nice, but I hardly find people like me. Just get started, and things will fall in place”.

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