Thursday, 4 February 2016

Promoting African Science Through the Next Einstein Forum - #NEF2016

I am delighted to be named among the first cohort of Next Einstein Forum Science Ambassadors. According to NEF.org, "the Next Einstein Forum (NEF) is a platform that brings together leading thinkers in science, policy, industry and civil society in Africa to leverage science to solve global challenges." Believing that the next Einstein will be African, NEF works to make Africa a global hub for science and technology. It is an initiative of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and the Robert Bosch Stiftung.
The Ambassadors scheme aims "to build a targeted team of 54 young Ambassadors, one from each African country, to participate in the NEF Global Gathering 2016, champion African science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] globally and become part of the growing NEF community."
 As a NEF Ambassador, I would among other things:
  1. Represent Ghana at the NEF Global Gathering event in Dakar, Senegal, the first of its kind in Africa. We would celebrate African science, including the work of the elite NEF Fellows, and showcase how to apply scientific knowledge to sustainable development in Africa. 
  2. Promote Ghanaian STEM stories, research, and innovations to the global audience. For example, my inaugural post on NEF.org highlighted pressing environmental issues in Ghana, and how various actors are working to resolve the challenges. In the future, I plan to share more on social innovation projects and research of the STEM community in Ghana
  3. Promote the Next Einstein Forum's work in Ghana and contribute to the growth of an all-inclusive community for science, technology, and development in Africa. I plan to share NEF news with my online networks, such as Global Lab Ghana, join STEM projects, and participate in relevant events and conferences here in Ghana
The NEF fellows embody African scientific excellence, inspiring the next generation of African scientists
Check out some of the ideas I shared during the application round in the YouTube video below:



In addition to the above, my hope is to network effectively with colleague ambassadors, the NEF Fellows, and other participants, creating opportunities for future collaborations. I am truly excited to be part of this pan-African initiative. Find out more about the awesome current NEF Ambassadors here and here.

What issues would you suggest to be on top of NEF's agenda? Are there any researchers or innovators whose work excite you that you think could use some visibility? I would be keen to hear your ideas as to how best to represent Ghana and Africa to the global audience. Follow the conversation via @NextEinsteinFor and @gamelmag on Twitter. Also get the latest updates via #NEF2016 and #AfricasEinsteins on social media.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Science BarCamp Ghana Examines Scientific Solutions for Economic Progress


Science BarCamp logo
Scientific developments in a country or society cannot proceed without a nurturing community, a collection of critical thinkers and willing actors. These people are usually buoyed by curiosity, to understand the underlying mechanisms of natural phenomena, and creativity, to devise solutions to day-to-day challenges humanity faces. Ghana’s first Science BarCamp, held last Saturday 9th January, witnessed a collection of such passionate thinker-doers at the National ICT and Science Resource Centre, Accra. The programme was put together by GhScientific, in partnership with GhanaThink Foundation, and supported by Novan Education and Training. The theme, “scientific solutions for economic progress”, could not be timelier, with the country facing challenges in energy, youth employment, sanitation, and public services. “What’s a barcamp?” you may ask. A barcarmp is a participatory ‘unconference’ where the programme and content are user-generated. Unlike your typical conference, everyone is encouraged to be a speaker and a member of the audience at the same time. Featuring various interactive formats, the programme seeks to engage all participants to learn and share in an open environment. GhanaThink has been spearheading barcamps, as a youth social changemaking movement, in Ghana since 2008. Science BarCamp remixed GhanaThink’s barcamp format, including science demo sessions, and an engaging panel discussion focused on issues affecting science in Ghana. The event brought together established scientists, professionals, young researchers, students, and general science enthusiasts. I was delighted to be the MC for the day.

Science mentors, L to R: Cordie, Gloria, Delali, Sam B, and Sam AF, introduce themselves. Credit: GhScientific 
After a round of self-introductions, the programme started with a panel discussion moderated by Larisa Bowen-Dodoo of Servled Africa. The discussants were Dr Kwamena Sagoe (Ghana Science Association), Dr Elsie Effah Kaufmann (University of Ghana), Mr Anis Haffar (GATE Institute), and Dr Patrick Arthur (University of Ghana). The discussion explored various facets of the theme, addressing issues such as quality of science education, motivation for science careers, and how to make science more marketable in Ghana. Their insights were complimented by contributions from a well-engaged audience. A very interesting discussion point was the role of the educational system (including teachers) in sustaining student’s interest in science. While many held that it was incumbent on schools to provide the needed stimulation and motivation, a few others were of the view that science, being a difficult field of endeavour, requires students’ own initiative and dogged determination to overcome inevitable challenges, irrespective of the environment. Various viewpoints covered the environment-initiative spectrum.

Dr Elsie Effah Kaufmann strongly advocated for student initiative as a key ingredient in learning science
Next, attendees had one-on-one mentoring sessions with invited scientists and industry professionals. The mentors were Dr Gloria Ivy Mensah (Women in Biomedicine Africa), Kobby Blay (GhanaHealthNest), Alain Gbeasor (Gesus Group), Jorge Appiah (Creativity Group), Delali Otchi (Hydra Group), Sam Bhattacharyya (dot Learn), Tunde Alawode (dot Learn), Dr Patrick Arthur (Department of Biochemistry, University of Ghana), Cordie Aziz (Environment360), and Samuel Amoako-Frimpong (University of Energy and Natural Resources). The mentors shared perspectives on their areas of expertise including included biomedical research, health communication, industrial chemicals, education, engineering, technology, and environmental sustainability. They gave guidelines on how to proceed on a science career path and practicalising scientific ideas. The group then broke for lunch during which there was a bit of unstructured mingling.

After lunch, Dr Thomas Tagoe, co-founder of GhScientific, led demos and fun games, which were very exciting. Samuel Amoako-Frimpong presented on virtual reality and how it can be applied in education. We also enjoyed #PipetteWars, a game testing the speed and accuracy of players to fill a white tile with water. Dr Arthur ultimately showed his pipetting prowess honed by many hours in biochemistry labs.

Dr Arthur faces off with Freda during finals of #PipetteWars
Four breakout sessions were organised to explore issues of interest to the participants. The areas selected were inspired by the contributions made during the panel discussion. The topics discussed were:
  • Moving from scientific ideas to large-scale solutions, led by Freda Yawson (Innovate Ghana)
  • Making science education interesting and appealing ,led by Saddiq Mohammed (Ghana Association of Science Teachers)
  • Engaging communities with science, led by Billy James Dega (National Society for Black Engineers)
  • Applications of virtual reality, led by Samuel Amoako-Frimpong (UENR)
Volunteers from each session summarised their discussion points for the plenary. As part of the closing remarks, the organisers mentioned various STEM projects and groups participants could engage with going forward.

Breakout sessions ongoing at SciBarCamp
Science BarCamp created a rare networking opportunity for both young scientists and their older counterparts. The event was highly interactive and all—round participation was fantastic. Science BarCamp created an intimate atmosphere for kindred spirits to discuss science, its possibilities, and the way forward for Ghana. I found conversations around learning, the environment, biotechnology, science business, and technology invigorating. This type of engagement is often missing in Ghana. Therefore GhScientific and partners must be applauded for their bold efforts in making science mainstream. There are already calls for Science BarCamp to be taken to other regions of Ghana. It would take the support of everyone who cares about Ghana’s future to make this possible.

Photo moment with cross-section of participants after programme. Credit GhScientific
What to know more about Science BarCamp? Check out this collection of photos on ghscientific.com, and follow #SciCampGH and #SciBarCamp across social media.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Projecting Ho and Impacting Generations Through Global Shapers Hub

The Ho Hub of the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers community has been busy since its inception, this January, with various projects to impact the Volta Region of Ghana. Global Shapers are passionate young people from diverse backgrounds who work together in geographical hubs to make positive contributions to their communities. 

The unique Ho hub is the third one to be set up in Ghana, and I am glad to be a member. Under the leadership of Tsonam Akpeloo, we collaborate to execute projects that truly benefit Ho and its environs.

Global Shapers Ho Hub members interacting with market women at Ahoe market during the 'miatowo' project
Below is a round-up of key activities carried out across heath, education, and business to date. 
  • The Water Purification Project addressed low access to clean water in a deprived school by providing a water purifier and training on its use
  • One Shoe Per Child provided basic school pupils with shoes to enable them travel comfortably and safely to school
  • Woekpor Digital Literacy Initiative introduced selected pupils and teachers to digital literacy and showcased use cases of common technologies for learning
  • Miatowo empowered local female traders with basic financial literacy and business generation skills to increase their revenue generation activities
  • Deviotoe complemented One Shoe per Child by providing books to pupils in the same school, with a goal to improving reading skills. 

These projects tackled key barriers to well-being at individual and communal levels. They are not ends in themselves. Rather, they represent starting points through which Global Shapers, and other groups of determined changemakers, can contribute to making small or big differences to everyday life in Ho. By being involved in the worldwide Global Shapers community, we stand to benefit from the experiences and insights of international colleagues, while sharing local best practices.

Keep up with Global Shapers Ho hub's activities through the following channels:

Global Shapers Ho page at globalshapers.org

Global Shapers Ho on Facebook

Global Shapers Ho on Twitter

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Making the Tertiary Years Count: Interesting Ideas from Makafui Awuku


Makafui Awuku through his new book "The Tertiary Years" provides hands-on conceptual tools to help students enhance their post-secondary school education experience. It covers topics such as goal setting, networking, time management, academic research, and financial management. The book is full of hands-on guides, calls-to-action, and illustrations to add clarity and practicality to the message. Clearly, The Tertiary years is a product of the detailed research, careful planning, and efficient execution the author is advocating for. Below is one of the graphics accompanying the text.



Makafui has been at the forefront of improving education in Ghana through his Students Initiative Ghana workshops, public speeches (including a‪ TEDxLabone‬ feature), and his "The Personal Development Agenda" activism. He also recently supported Junior Camp Internship Programme with a session on Learning and Memory Enhancement. 

I contributed an essay on using ICTs to enhance learning at the tertiary level to Makafui's book. It drew on personal experiences to give examples of how students can expand their learning opportunities using technological tools.  

The Tertiary Years will be officially launched next Saturday 26th September (starting at 1:30 pm) at La Fiesta Hacienda (Opposite University for Professional Studies), Legon, Accra. There will be a follow-up workshop on personal development hosted by the University of Professional Studies, Accra on 30th September.



If you're a post-secondary student looking for a guide to help you navigate the high seas of academia successfully, this if for you. For school counsellors, career coaches, and mentors, The Tertiary Years is an invaluable addition to your collections. Visit www.studentinitgh.com for more information.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Innovating with Science and Technology at Accra Science Hack Day


The first ever Accra Science Hack Day, held at iSpace in Osu on 15th and 16th August 2015, brought together students, hobbyists, technologists and science enthusiasts from different parts of Ghana. They worked individually or in teams on interesting projects, either tackling a key societal problem or just having fun with science. It was an interesting learning experience for me, even though I participated as one of the facilitators, alongside Kobe Subramaniam, Anisha Tailor and Myf Owen (from Lab_13 Ghana), and Thomas Tagoe (GH Scientific).

I was very glad to see Junior Camp Internship Programme trainee Maame Yaa Serwaa expertly manage the registration desk and provide on-site support to iSpace Community Manager, Akua Baning. Akua ensured that all aspects of the event went on smoothly.

We were welcomed to the event by JCIP & iSpace intern Maame Yaa
Most of the hackers took a bit of time to arrive at iSpace at the advertised time on Day 1, which appeared to be a slow Saturday, but when they walked in their focus and level of engagement was consistent throughout the period of the programme. I spotted a few former students of mine from my Ketasco days. Lab_13 Ghana had also registered two of the beneficiaries of their hands-on science sessions, Samuel Darko and Perkins Frimpong. The two 14-year olds are pupils of Solid Hope Basic School in the Bosumtwe District.

Kobe and I gave quick five minute lightening talks, after a brief welcome speech by Akua. I touched on citizen science as a tool for research and civic participation. I explained how the research, technology, and civic communities can come together to address challenges such as power cuts, pollution, and transport in Accra. Kobe's presentation was on innovating with micro-controller systems such as Arduino and Rapberry Pi. He used examples from Ghana and elsewhere to illustrate the ubiquity of these systems in an increasingly technological world.


The teams soon got down to business for the rest of Day 1 and most of Day 2.

Team Dumsor Automate developing their idea on Day 1
At the end of Day 2, six teams made presentations:
  1. Smart Borla: a refuse collection beam that sends signals to the collecting company when it is full
  2. QBay: uses augmented reality to engage and enhance the learning experience for students.
  3. Dumsor Automate: a system that enables remote control of electric gadget especially during power cuts
  4. SP Backpack: solar-powered backpack that enables charging of mobile devices on-the-go
  5. Secnet: a suite of online security tools
  6. Gospel Scientist: explaining biblical principles using scientific demos
  7. Linkages: an art piece depicting connections (visualise spider web) through the woldwide web.
The judges, Fiifi Baidoo (iSpace), Kobe, and Tom had the unenviable task of picking out the winners from the pack.

Before the results were announced, Tom spoke on a new Wellcome Trust funded initiative we've been cooking up for quite some time now called SHAPE (Shaping Healthy Attitudes and Protecting the Environment). This project, led by GH Scientific, is aimed at engaging Junior High School students to analyse and design solutions to environmental health challenges in Accra.

Back to the main proceedings. Everyone was excited to learn how the teams placed at the end of two days of ideation and prototyping. The third position went to Dumsor Automate, the second to Q-Bay, and quite remarkably, SP Backpack from Lab_13 Ghana placed first! The boys, who earlier won the Boatastic boat-making competition (Titanic 2015), scientists-in-residence, and everyone associated with Lab_13 were over the moon. The win validates the idea of giving learners space to experiment and discover things for themselves.

Celebrating Samuel and Perkins Credit: Lighyer Foundation Facebook page
Overall, the event (#AccraScienceHackDay) was a great one and has the potential to become a mainstay on the Ghanaian tech circuit. Its hands-on nature challenges participants to move away from just talking about problems, and fantasising about possibilities, to actually building stuff, test and receive feedback. Going forward, I would like to see earnest efforts made to sustain the various projects started. Additionally, it'd be really cool to expand the event geographically, so other regions in Ghana will benefit. Hopefully, future events will see more innovations from fields aside electronics. There is huge potential for bio-hacking and data analytics projects in our context.

Huge thanks to iSpace for bringing such a truly remarkable event to Ghana. Commendations also go to Science Hack Day, the global organisers, and EndNote for their sponsorship.

If you were to participate in a Science Hack Day event, what project would you work on?