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Makerspace, practical education, and STEM lab for youth in Rwanda

Kepler Tech Lab runs a social innovation center and STEM lab to students and local communities to produce things locally using technologies.

Photo of Alphonse Habyarimana

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This idea is an education program and social enterprise that tackles the problem of insufficient hands-on science and education in Rwanda through these actionable steps:

  • Offering hands-on enrichment programs in programming, electronics, scientific communication to high school students in Rwanda
  • Developing open-source curricula for low-cost engineering education

What we learned throughout the process since August 2015:

  • Confirmation that Rwanda indeed lacks hands-on engineering education and students are excited to learn these skills
  • Rwandan technical universities have sufficient technical education in engineering topics, but students lack critical thinking skills in these topics
  • There is little infrastructure in the Rwandan government for supporting new education initiatives
  • Local businesses agree about lack of employees with both technical and critical thinking skills

What we accomplished that we are excited about:

  • Taught curricula to ~100 Rwandan high school and university students and used feedback to restructure course
  • Renovated a lab space and acquired appropriate local materials
  • Handful students were mentored in developing their own social enterprise projects from skills learned in engineering courses
  • Established connection with local solar energy, data analysis, computer programming, and environment companies to focus our curricula on immediate industry needs
  • Established strong connection with International Development Innovation Network to receive support in connecting with other development initiatives and potentially receive funding
  • Established support from Stanford FabLearn in connecting with other education initiatives
  • Established support from University of California, Davis in partnership with D-Lab at Massachusetts Institutes of Technology in a program for International Energy Technologies for the development and improvement of our social innovation center, Kepler Tech Lab

What we learned from the end-users and community members that contributed to the development of our idea:

  • Engineering education is more important than fundamental science education for solving existing technological problems in the community
  • Creating enrichment programs for high school level students is more impactful than for college level students, as high school students still have flexibility in choosing a field of study
  • Empowering the community members themselves to develop ideas for low-cost engineering education is more sustainable than creating ideas for them to implement

Goals we have in the next 6 months:

  • Strengthen team leadership
  • Increase community members’ awareness of programs through:
    • Improved advertising
    • Organized outreach events to local high schools
  • Develop a sustainable financial model, which could look like:
    • Stable donor sponsorship
    • Social enterprise with incomes from: student class fees, lab rental to other organizations, research consulting fees on engineering projects
  • Develop more advanced curricula for engineering skills:
    • Computer programming and web development
    • Electronics
    • Mechanical engineering

Goals we have as a long-term outlook:

  • Encourage girls to be engaged in engineering career
  • Develop a stable partnership with other hands-on engineering programs, including:
    • FabLab and kLab Kigali
    • Practical Education Network
  • Integrate topics from enrichment programs into more traditional Rwandan education curricula
  • Education for team leaders on topics including:
    • Technical skills in engineering, computer science, science, and math
    • International development
    • Developing and implementing a business plan
    • Networking

Call to action for specific support (skills, networks, access to funding resources):

  • People with experience in business planning and implementation
  • People with expertise in technical skills: electronics, computer programming, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering
  • Network of international engineering education organizations
  • Access to seed funding for 1 year

How people can offer support: research, business development/partnerships, strategy/leadership, project management, marketing/outreach, evaluation.

Here http://bit.ly/2gZpESN and http://bit.ly/2jqi2gV at the Stanford FabLearn, we published learning experiences of one of our beneficiaries from middle high school from our most recent engineering classes and workshops.

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Photo of Alphonse

Hey OpenIDEO Community,

Something happened at Kepler Tech Lab this week! Check it out at http://bit.ly/2inI18U of Kepler Tech Lab. The same article can be found at the Stanford FabLearn http://bit.ly/2jifelN and my own LinkedIn http://bit.ly/2iT74Nj. Innovate, Make, Educate is our motto!

Enjoy as you read our impact!

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