Tech Saturdays exposes learners to opportunities in technology

 

In a quest to empower young girls with Technological skills, Girls Invent Tomorrow, has started a project called Tech Saturdays. It is a 12-week course that focuses on exposing learners to different avenues of technology.  The project is already on its 10th week.  We had a discussion with one of the facilitators of the project, Thabo Sibeko and this is what he shared with us.

Girls Invent Tomorrow: What is the inspiration behind Tech Saturdays?

Thabo Sibeko: Technology continues to be a driver of significant social and economic change in the modern world. People who are technology literate stand at a distinct economic advantage over those who do not have exposure to tech innovation. Technology Saturdays is an attempt to expose young people to the many opportunities that exist within the technology sector of the economy. It is aimed at informing them of the possibilities to either join the existing technology industry or to help shape the innovations of the future.

Why did you get involved in the project?

TS: I have worked in various aspects of the technology space for many years and have seen the opportunities that exist for the tech savvy. These can only be taken advantage of by highly skilled individuals. I am also keenly aware of the many challenges facing the youth of South Africa regarding employment and all the related social obstacles that result from a lack of resources. Tech Saturdays aims to empower the youth to take advantage of the potential of tech skills in the provision of employment, business opportunities and the addressing of key social problems.

 Picture: Thabo Sibeko and learners

Picture: Thabo Sibeko and learners

What kind of materials have you shared with learners?

TS: An introduction to programming including front-end development using HTML, CSS and JavaScript web technologies and related resources.

Why did you choose those materials?

TS: Many people are used to interacting with web applications for educational, work or social reasons (e.g. google, Facebook and twitter web or native apps). We decided that in order to get the learners quickly up to speed with the curriculum it would be useful to start with the platforms they are familiar with. It was important for them to see that they too could create applications that could be used by others for social, business, educational or productivity reasons.

How many learners are involved in the project?

TS: There are ten learners involved in the project.

Describe their progress thus far? Any challenges and successes?

TS: The learners have made significant progress. Some have gone from using PCs for the first time, to being able to write basic interactive web applications. The challenge we had was a lack of practice time on the PCs. Since the learners only have access to the PCs on Saturday, they didn’t get sufficient time to practice what they were learning. This has been addressed by providing a shared laptop to their school so they can get time to practise during the week.

What is the future for Tech Saturdays?

TS: The future of the programme will be confirmed after the conclusion of the first phase. The possibilities are either to continue with a more advanced course with the first group of learners or to introduce a new group to the beginner course or some combination of the two. This first course is 12 weeks long. It started on the 4th of June 2016 and will be ending on 20th of August 2016.

---

Follow #TechSaturdays and @GirlsInvent on Twitter for updates on the project.

 

 

Introducing Robotics to the New Jerusalem Children’s Home learners

As part our ongoing initiatives to expose learners to career possibilities in STEM, Girls Invent Tomorrow (GIT) partnered with the UJ TechnoLab on 12 March 2016 to host an introductory Robotics workshop. Learners from New Jerusalem Children’s Home were invited to attend the session that was facilitated by Michael Ettershank, a professor from the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at the University of Johannesburg.

 New Jerusalem Children's Home learners

New Jerusalem Children's Home learners

Coach Michael, as he’s asked to be called, introduced learners about the role of Math and Science in Engineering then specifically on robots and how they could command them to perform various functions.

  Professor Michael Ettershank:   Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at the University of Johannesburg

Professor Michael Ettershank: Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at the University of Johannesburg

After the brief talk, learners received the opportunity to work with mini educational robots known as the AfrikaBOT. They participated in a challenge to command the robots to move in a maze using special commands that they had to configure in teams of two. Progress was slow at the beginning, however, soon the learners started to grasp how to command their robots and successfully complete the maze without touching sides.

The atmosphere was filled with determination to get the robots working with some of the learners even refusing to take a lunch break.

As the day progressed, Michael played videos depicting different ways of programming robots using code as opposed to the graphic user interface that got them started earlier.

He encouraged the learners to work hard at school, aim for 100% and not 30% that is regarded as a minimum pass grade in the current education system. Learners were encouraged to start an engineering club, which they decided to call the NJCH Engineering Club which is now planning to enter the AfrikaBOT16 competition.

Overall, the day was a success, with all the children hardly able to contain their excitement at learning something new and fun. Some of them were heard to be considering a future where they will work with robots.

Celebrating International Women's Day 2016

Today there are many events are being held around the world to celebrate International Women's Day 2016. For example, the #OneDayIWill campaign by Google recognises women who are excelling in STEM careers that are usually associated with men.

 Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

We also joined in the celebration by acknowledging phenomenal women making a difference in STEM industries.

Yasmin Belo-Osagie and Afua Osei are the co-founders of She Leads Africa. Their platform aims to provide female entrepreneurs across the African continent with financing, knowledge and networking opportunities to build their businesses. Since its establishment, their platform has recruited almost 1,000 women-led start-ups into their network with an overall goal of turning them into pan-African industry leaders.

According to Yasmin and Afua: “Entrepreneurship will be the broad-based driver of economic growth for Africa with the potential to create jobs for more than 200 million young Africans between ages 15 and 24.”

Girls Invent Tomorrow will be taking girl learners from the New Jerusalem Children’s Home (NJCH) to the University of`Johannesburg (UJ) technolab to introduce them to robotics as part of our projects to expose the girl child to careers in technology.

 

 

 

 

We visit Siyafunda Technology Centre, Cosmo City

On 2 and 3 February 2016, myself (Palesa) and two members of the local Intel She Will Connect team (Rula and Valencia) visited the Siyafunda Technology Centre in Cosmo City (in the north-west of Johannesburg). Intel's She Will Connect aims to bridge the gender gap in technology which includes access to the Internet.

Siyafunda is one of She Will Connect's community partners in South Africa who, amongst other activities, run the basic Intel Learn Easy Steps Digital Literacy course for young women (and some men) in a 6 - 8 week programme. Participants are introduced to digital tools from the basic workings of a computer, document processing, improving typing to more advanced topics such as exploring opportunities presented by the Internet.

We spoke to Fanisa Mkansi (21) and Keletso Sebake (21), both of whom had no previous experience with computers. They have graduated in the course this year and are now looking to apply their skills in the real world as well as become facilitators at the centre as part of their WIL (work integrated learning). Both of them expressed that they learnt new skills on a daily basis and that computers enabled them to gain access to information which they didn't have before.

Interestingly some of their fellow graduates have subsequently joined a crime-fighting forensic investigation programme in Pretoria.

You could not find any two people more enthusiastic about computers and Internet, an energy that I hope they will use to further empower themselves and their community through technology.

An award ceremony was held on the next day at S'godiphola Secondary School a few minutes away from the Siyafunda Centre where the high school learners who took part in the Digital Literacy programme previously were given their certificates of participation by the centre's Sam, Mustaf and Millie.

You can find out more about Intel's She Will Connect initiative at shewillconnect.intel.com

 S'godiphola learners: recent graduates of Intel  She Will Connect 's Digital Literacy course at Siyafunda, Cosmo City.

S'godiphola learners: recent graduates of Intel She Will Connect's Digital Literacy course at Siyafunda, Cosmo City.

Taungana STEM EXPO Week for rural schools

 

The 2nd STEM (Science Technology Engineering Maths) Expo, hosted by Taungana, was held in August 2015. The expo attracted 30 high school girls from Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa from rural and disadvantaged communities, offering them an opportunity to explore the fields of STEM. Women and girls remain hugely underrepresented in STEM fields in Africa and globally.

Held from 23rd – 29th August 2015, the expo introduced the girls to potential careers, role models and organisations in each STEM industry. Girls Invent Tomorrow hosted an introduction to coding for the learners as part of the week's activities. The sessions included inspirational talks by women in the tech industry on how they defied the odds to pursue their careers, instilling a mind-set of persistence in the learners to do great things in the tech space.

And of course, the event could not have been successful without the support from Intel South Africa which continues to assist in the journey of ensuring that girls in developing countries are acquiring and developing programming and coding skills to participate globally in online activities.  


GIT at SABC African Education Week

The annual  SABC African Education Week, now in it’s 9th year, was held on 1-2 July 2015 at Gallagher Convention Center. The two-day long event aims to highlight the new developments and innovation in the South African Education sector. The event exhibited cutting–edge education technology innovations; provided numerous lectures to educators; provided a platform for educators to view the latest technology on offer for their classrooms and also enabled them to connect to industry leaders who are pioneering change through relationships with the public sector.

Girls Invent Tomorrow, in partnership with Intel South Africa, hosted a coding workshop for Grade 10 – 12 girl learners, from Kensington secondary school, Mahlasedi high school and College Focus school. The workshop was facilitated by Girl Rising SA ambassador and Raeketsetsa co-founder, Hlulani Baloyi, who guided the learners throughout the sessions. As part of a series of workshops under the Intel She Will Connect program, the coding workshop aimed to empower the girls by showing them how to best navigate the web whilst teaching them the basics of coding.

 

International Day of the Girl Child – 11 October 2014

On 10 October 2014, a coding event was hosted by Girls Invent Tomorrow and Intel to coincide with International Day of the Girl.

The objectives of the event include:

  • To position Intel as an organisation with an active and vested interest in the development and empowerment of girls
  • Expose girl learners to the world of coding and opportunities that exist
  • Empower girls to embrace technology as the builders and creators of tomorrow
  • To strengthen the current working relationships with the existing NGO’s in Africa through inclusion and joint participation