Robotics and collaboration – a week in Komotini, Greece

Between 6th and 13th of October, we visited Proto gymnasio school in Komotini, Greece as part of Kõrveküla Basic School’s Erasmus+ project „Through robotics and collaboration to the successful citizens of the 21st century” (Robootika ja koostöö kaudu 21. sajandi edukateks kodanikeks). Five students and two teachers from IES Schamann school in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain also joined us in Greece.

Our travels began in the evening of the 5th of October when we took the bus from Tartu to Tallinn airport. Our overnight flight took us to Athens where we arrived at 7am in the morning, leaving us a whole day to explore the sights in Athens. We started our sightseeing trip at the Syntagma square in front of the Parliament building. Our next stop was the Acropolis, where we spent most of our day exploring the area. All these constructions, especially the pillars, seemed huge to us! The views from the Acropolis to the city down below were magnificent. Later, when we were walking in the city we saw many exotic trees as well as palm trees. In the evening, we headed back to the airport where we took a plane to Alexandroupolis. Our friends from Spain took the same flight with us. All our hosts and local teachers were waiting for us at the airport when we arrived. They had a huge bus that took us to Komotini in an hour.

On Sunday, on the 7th of October, after some well-needed sleep, we visited the local military museum in the mountains near Komotini in the Norther Part of Greece (not very far from the Bulgarian border). The large museum building was shaped like a reverse pyramid in the ground. The museum had a large ancient weapon display that highlighted the cleverness and smartness of the Greeks very well. Later, we familiarized ourselves with the city of Komotini and took a leisurely stroll in the Agia Paraskevi park, explored the central square, visited local mosques and saw the clock tower.

On Monday, on the 8th of October we were welcomed at the Proto gymnasio Komotini school. The school day starts with a communal prayer in which everybody at the school participated in. After that the students and teachers headed to classrooms. After a quick tour of the school we headed to the computer lab and spent most of our day there. We helped our Greek friends prepare for the FLL (First Lego League) competition, worked with FLL pads and solved challenges.  The competition was introduced to us by our Greek friends, because they participate every year. It was very strange for us that the students did not eat their lunch at school. Instead, they went home to have lunch. At the end of this eventful day we managed to squeeze in a visit to the Komotini archaeology museum as well as a local business called Prisma Electronics to have a look at the manufacturing process of electronic chips.

On Tuesday, on the 9th of October, we spent the morning working hard in the computer lab solving different FLL challenges. In the afternoon, we visited the city of Xanthi. Our trip took us to a local hobby school where we learned to our delight that one of their teams has visited Estonia and participated in a local Robotex competition. Later, we had an amazing opportunity to see different robotic development opportunities at a local university. It was great to see a working drone built by the local students.

On Wednesday, on the 10th of October, we drove to the city of Kavala, where we participated in the Nationwide Industrial Informatics Festival. There were so many great opportunities to see and try out various technological contraptions. Whilst in the area we also visited the antique city of Philippi, where we wandered at the ruins, and were fascinated by the stories about the city, told by a local guide. Our last stop there was a five-star hotel that used to be an Imaret. The place was magnificent and offered an opportunity to take picture of the gorgeous sunset overlooking Kavala city.

On Thursday, on the 11th of October, we finished up our FLL (First Lego League) tasks. All the teams had a chance to demonstrate their work and the robots they built. In the evening we were organised a farewell party at the school. Being indoors was great, because whilst the temperatures during the day were nice and warm (20ᴼ-24ᴼ C), the weather after the sunset was quite chilly. We very much enjoyed the local songs and dances as well as the delicious snacks and local dishes.

On Friday, the 12th of October we headed to Thessaloniki in the morning. The drive there took us about 3 hours. In Thessaloniki we first participated in a robotics workshop and then headed to the White Tower of Thessaloniki which is a famous monument and museum on the waterfront of the city of Thessaloniki. We enjoyed the beautiful sights from the top of the tower. Then it was time for a quick lunch at a local shopping centre and we had to say our goodbyes. Our Estonian group was taken to Thessaloniki airport, while our Greek and Spanish friends headed back to Komotini.

On Saturday, the 13th of October. We flew from Thessaloniki to Riga. After landing at the Riga airport we took a local bus to the bus station in the city centre where we could take an international line to Tartu bus station. The week-long adventure went fast. There were many wonderful meetings, it was great to explore Greek culture and traditions and our host families were so friendly and caring. We made many new friends from both Greece and Spain. There were so many positive surprises! Both the teachers and the students were happy with this trip and we hope that we will have another chance to meet up in the near future.

Students from Kõrveküla Basic School Säde Einasto, Mariann Matteus, Marten Teska, Karli Joorits ja Ralf Paat, and teachers Juta Laane and Einar Nõmme.

Happy travellers at Acropolis of Athends (author: Juta Laane)
In front of the Komotini Archaeology Museum (author: Juta Laane)
Prisma Electronics (author: Juta Laane)
Philippi ancient theatre (author: Juta Laane)
At the computer lab at Komotini school (author: Juta Laane)
On the top of the White Tower of Thessaloniki (author: Juta Laane)
Estonian travellers on the top of the White Tower of Thessaloniki (author: Juta Laane)