The Next Einstein, an initiative of the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences in partnership with Robert Bosch Stiftung, anno....
What are we here for? Africa Science Week! That was the motto during the first of its kind Next Einstein Forum’s Africa Science Week hosted at mHub in Lilongwe. The Next Einstein, an initiative of the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences in partnership with Robert Bosch Stiftung, announced the launch of the science week in Lilongwe on June 14th, 2017. Science Week in Lilongwe was hosted at Malawi’s first technology hub, mHub, where the founder is a Next Einstein Forum ambassador. The aim of the Africa Science Week initiative is to develop tomorrow’s scientists and technologists by engaging children and young people in scientific activities. Africa Science Week in Lilongwe received and worked with over 200 participants.
The Science Week was officially launched on June 27th with a Creative Design Workshop to train students in idea generation and prototyping of scientific projects. The goal was to train them to develop the skills for tomorrow’s engineers. The facilitator Mr. Louis Sichali has 6 year’s experience teaching students at vocational college level and he is conversant in the area of innovation in developing sustainable entrepreneurship ventures. The Second Lady Mrs. Mary Chilima stopped by at the launch to give the students some words of inspiration “Take everything you can from these opportunities”, said Mrs. Chilima.
Before Mr. Sichali went into his lesson, Ms. Maggie Phiri, a Geneticist and lecturer at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, enlightened the students with a Purpose Road Map exercise. Many of us when we are going through life we have career goals and dreams but don’t know how to get to those dreams. A Purpose Road Map is a guide used to help youth connect the dots and achieve their school and career goals. Mr. Sichali then went into his Creative Design Thinking lesson for the day covering the philosophy of design thinking, how it can be applied to a real life setting, enhancing and practicing skills of rapid prototyping, and how the students can uncover their creative potential.
On Tuesday June 28th, the Africa Science Week continued with a Digital Skills for Women in STEM workshop. The name says it all, a workshop training digital skills to women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The agenda for the workshop included training the ladies in mobile development, social media management and also a career talk aspect. Ms Chikondi Shaba, an Analytical Chemist lecturing at the University of Malawi Chancellor College and Co-Founder of Malawi Girls in STEM, gave a powerful and motivational talk about her journey through life and how she got to be an Analytical Chemist. Life wasn’t easy but school was her escape and she persevered. She advised the ladies in the audience to love what they do before choosing a career, focus and have goals.
Rebecca Saeluzika Mzungu went through the do’s and don’ts of using social media, covering areas that most people didn’t know can affect how people view you, such as having appropriate social media handles, posting appropriate pictures and avoiding controversial posts as in the case of Justine Sacco, an American who published an offensive tweet about African’s.
Participants also got hands on experience developing a game called name that logo and the name of it was Africa Science Week using MIT App. The user was to identify the logo that was being displayed on the screen. In between activities, the facilitator kept things interesting by giving the young ladies brain teasers with the ones answering correct winning an Africa Science Week tshirt.
Halfway through the Africa Science Week on Thursday, we had the Hardware Programming Workshop for college students. Omron Blauo trained the students how to solve real life problems and challenges using hardware programming.The students were split into groups to identify a problem or challenge, then work together to solve it. They used Arduino boards and Raspberry pies for these practical exercises. In the afternoon, we had a Tech Discovery for Children. mHub was able to invite 20 children from the local education authority from Lilongwe Primary School, 6 Children from Music Crossroads and children from our regular Children’s Coding Club.
At the closing ceremony, the Expo Day Festival of Science and Engineering, we had Guests of Honour from the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology Mr. Patrick Mpadzula and the Director General of the National Commission of Science and Technology Dr. Anthony Muyepa. Both were impressed by the different technology innovations developed by the youth.
One of our exhibitors were the girls from the Girls4Code Club, GHub, also winners of Malawi’s first Agri-Hackathon showed attendees, Mr. Mpadzula and Dr. Muyepa their Make Me Green mobile application for farmers. The Make Me Green application intends to provide farmers with relevant agriculture news and information. “The innovations I have witnessed today are all part of the future of Malawi”, said Dr. Anthony Muyepa as he addressed his speech.
After closing the Africa Science Week in Lilongwe, we joined the National Schools’ Science Fair at Kamuzu Academy in Kasungu, a town 2 hours north of Lilongwe. Kamuzu Academy is a private boarding school that was founded by and named after Malawi’s former president Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda. Kamuzu Academy has been holding a National School Science Fair annually since 2009 bringing innovative secondary school students together to compete in five categories namely Environment and Climate Change, Energy Sources, Health, Value Addition and Preservation as well as Scientific and Technology Innovations. The winners this year were an all-girl team from Dzaleka Community Day Secondary School for the life jacket they made using plastic bottles, watch out world!
mHub was honoured to be part of the first of its kind Africa Science Week. Africa Science Week received support and recognition from all angels. ASW in Malawi had several mentions in both locally run major media houses The Nation Malawi and The Daily Times. We hope to inspire all youth in Malawi that ‘Yes They Can’ be tomorrow’s developers, scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians!
By Tapiwa Bokosi