Chess Board
Photo Credit: Booster Kids

A competition challenge to innovate ‘something that would make a difference’ has resulted in an innovative chess board for the blind thanks to a young coding and robotics team! Inspired by teammate Jair’s desire to play chess with his blind mother, the team got to work to create an accessible chess board that also won them a chance to compete internationally:


Cape Town, South Africa (15 May 2024) — When a group of clever children part of Booster Kids Robotics School got the chance to compete in the First Lego League (FLL) Masterpiece Competition, they hardly knew that they’d come up with an innovation that would mean so much to so many people, and one mom in particular. But, a challenge to innovate ‘something that would make a difference’ as part of the competition has done exactly that, and thanks to Team Checkmate, these a chess board accessible to the blind is now no longer a just an idea!

It all began in 2023 when the team competed regionally in October 2023 in the FLL Masterpiece competition. The competition is divided into two: The ‘Robot Run’ (where robots are built from lego and coded to perform functions on pre-printed tables) and the ‘Innovation Project’, which entails innovating something that’ll solve a problem and make a difference where needed.

“Their innovation revolves around the mother (my wife) of one of the team members (Jair, my son) who has lost her sight due to a medical condition,” Dale February tells Good Things Guy. 

“In the last nearly 6 years she has had 47 operations and 9 cornea replacements but she is still unable to see.” 

Jair wanted to be able to play chess with his mom, and since the team were tasked with finding a common hobby among themselves and making it more accessible, a chess board that is accessible to the blind became their task.

“All this based on the situation with Velindie, Jair’s mom. This is also where their name ‘Checkmate was birthed from,” Dale adds.

The three team members Jair February (11) Ryan Fortuin (12) and Abigail Schubert (12) went on to win first place for their innovation in December last year at Nationals and were then selected to represent South Africa in the 2024 Asia Pacific Open Championship FLL in Australia in July.

Their chess board has since won the appreciation of the likes of Western Cape Premiere Alan Winde, and might just go on to win hearts around the world if Team Checkmate can get to Australia.

A fundraiser is currently ongoing to help raise enough to cover the travel expenses for the coaches, teammates and one parent per child. You can support the BK Robotics 2 Australia mission here! Beyond their crowdfunding campaign, supporters have also rallied for the cause via a FunRun and an upcoming awareness drive at Starbuck, V&A Waterfront on 25 May from 12pm.

Considering the incredible success we’ve seen other young robotics teams accomplish after they made their mark on the world, we’re sure that Team Checkmate, their brilliant chess board and robotics skills will blow South Africa’s socks off if they get the chance to compete in Australia.

Sources: Website Submission — Dale February 
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About the Author

Ashleigh Nefdt is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Ashleigh's favourite stories have always seen the hidden hero (without the cape) come to the rescue. As a journalist, her labour of love is finding those everyday heroes and spotlighting their spark - especially those empowering women, social upliftment movers, sustainability shakers and creatives with hearts of gold. When she's not working on a story, she's dedicated to her canvas or appreciating Mother Nature.

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