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Nicholas commented on Makerspace and engineering teaching laboratory for youth

Hello,

Your plan to expand the education available to the youth of Rwanda is very insightful. As you noted, it is absolutely vital to be able to train and educate a local workforce if any economic recovery is to work out in the long term. As such, a program to improve the quality and availability of local education is very important to the long term growth and development of a country.

One of the main challenges you cite is that of keeping the costs of the experiments in your curriculum low-cost. Your plan for substitution using other, cheaper equipment that can be repurposed is the right way to go. On the same note, reclaiming components from damaged equipment can also allow you to expand your options, and can provide an interesting and educational experience for students. Assembling parts into a functioning system is an extremely rewarding experience, one that would very much encourage continued interest in the science and engineering fields. This has the added benefit of very low cost – there are any number of projects that can be built from reclaimed materials, and when electronic equipment fails, it is usually due to a single component. That means that even if the original object doesn’t work at all, most of the parts that make it up would be perfectly fine.

On the same note, an important challenge for you is to encourage interest and participation in the curriculum. As I briefly mentioned earlier, hands-on work where students can see the results of their efforts and apply what they are learning in the classroom can be a great motivator. One of the most important factors in encouraging students to enter science and technology fields is their engagement in the work that is being done. If they can experience the curriculum, instead of just being taught it, it will foster interest and better learning.

I look forward to seeing how this idea grows,

Nicholas Sylvester

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Nicholas commented on Hope for life centre(H4LC)

Hello,

How do you plan to support this training centre? You mention that it will be staffed by volunteers. Will these volunteers be compensated for their time? How will you be paying for the space and materials needed for your training centre to function? Especially in a vocational environment like the one you are proposing, there will be a constant outflow of money to acquire materials and tools to support the learning process. Your target audience are, like you mentioned, both jobless and lacking in prospects to remedy that situation. There’s not much money to be had from tuitions among these youths. Will you be supported by government funding? Fundraising, both locally and overseas? Do you plan to rely on alumni, which would require years of operating in the red to pay off? Please provide some idea of the business model you’re planning to use, to give a better idea of the back-end of your proposed training centre idea. It can’t survive without some funding, and an idea like this deserves to make it.

The idea itself is a good one, with a lot of promise. Vocational skills and entrepreneurial education are very important in fostering a small business community. Once that community begins to get off the ground, the economic effects could be incredible, as jobs are created, money begins to flow, and opportunities grow. Increasing education and providing this kind of support to young people are absolutely vital in rejuvenating the economy.

I look forward to seeing where it goes from here,

Nicholas Sylvester

Hello,

You mentioned that you were looking for biodegradable, eco-friendly packaging. One of the things you might be able to consider is bio-plastic. As shown here, https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/food-waste/refinement/full-cycle-converting-waste-into-a-fully-compostable-bioplastic , bioplastic can not only provide an eco-friendly, food-safe packaging material, but it can also put to use other waste products that would not get reprocessed in your muffins. You mention that you want to share your message on your packaging, which is not a bad idea, but it does mean that you would require somewhat more to your packaging than a simpler plastic film. For something like that, you might possibly consider a lined or waxed paper wrapper. That would give you space to print your message and your goals, while maintaining biodegradability. The downside of course, would be the same thing that would make it appealing – more packaging is more trash produced along the way. The extra surface area that makes it possible to share your message is extra material that will need to be disposed of, which is something to be aware of if you really want to be as eco-friendly as possible.

In your idea, you mention that you will not be able to maintain bulk distribution yourselves, and need to outsource. This will mean additional expenses and another party that will also be looking to make a profit on the product, cutting your potential income and narrowing your margins severely. Do you plan to maintain your own involvement with the product once another group has taken over production and distribution, or are you planning to test and prove the idea, and then offload it entirely to someone who is better equipped to manage it? Have you considered expanding your own operations to grow your own ability to handle the demand? Your margins are already looking very narrow given that you need to cut costs by almost two-thirds just to not lose money on the expected contract. Bringing in another company who can work at great scale might be good at reducing the cost-per-unit in purely production terms, but it also means additional overhead that will increase the overall cost of production in ways not significantly mitigated by scale.

This idea is very interesting, and I look forward to seeing how it grows from here.

Nicholas Sylvester