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 White. 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?

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Junior Camp Internship Programme to Train Ghanaian High School Graduates

GhanaThink Foundation through its Junior Camp Internship Programme (JCIP) will provide hands-on training and practical work experience to ten lucky senior high school graduates. This pilot programme is scheduled to run from June to August, and builds upon the gains of the Junior Camp initiative launched about two years ago at Keta Senior High Technical School.
The training component will last for two weeks; it consists of four thematic areas: learning & research, communication, leadership & ethics, and entrepreneurship. The programme will then dovetail into the internship proper, which features organisations from different industries. The idea is to match trainees with their hopefully "best fit" organisations. This will allow interns to work on projects they are interested in and learn in the process.

The overall aim of JCIP is to expose participants to a wide range of information, skills, and possibilities so as to build their confidence to face their next line of pursuits. A JCIP alumnus should excel at academic studies in the university, be competent and innovative in a work environment, and lead causes of great social benefit. Above everything, graduates of the programme would develop an insatiable hunger for learning and problem-solving, that will drive their everyday activities.

If you are a final year student in a senior high school, or know someone who may be qualified and interested, kindly visit the application form and be part of this great journey. Application closes on 1st May.

Quick Links

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Insights from GhanaThink's Youth Mentorship Online Chat #DiasporaCamp

I previously blogged on the Google + Hangout GhanaThink Diaspora was organising to discuss the importance of mentorship and youth development. The chat was hosted by Thelma Boamah and I, on behalf of the team, last Saturday at 2 pm GMT. Colleagues such as Kirstie, Angie, Kweku, and Jemila played significant background roles to ensure the success of the event. 

The panellists for the day were Emmanuel Gamor (Mpwr), Nina Werner (Mara Mentor), Ebenezer Gwumah (Ashesi), Kofi Yeaboah (BarCamp Ghana), Elizabeth Patterson (Girls Education Initiative Ghana), Eunice Young (Junior Camp Ghana), Cortni Grange (Future Leaders and Young Entrepreneurs), and Jennifer Ehidiamen (Rural Reporters). They shared many brilliant insights. A core message was the importance of identifying what a mentee seeks in a mentoring relationship, and ensuring that he/she applies the lessons learnt from the mentor to achieve results. Another key take away was the need to appreciate mentoring as a two-way relationship, meaning that both mentors and mentees can benefit from each other. Here's a video of the full conversation.

We additionally had great inputs and questions from the Twitter audience, tweeting under the hashtag #DiasporaCamp. The tweets and other social media posts have been storified below. Enjoy and feel free to share your views, experiences or questions on mentoring. Do also check out Panellist Jennifer's write-up on mentoring and sustainable growth.

Friday, 5 December 2014

GhanaThink Diaspora to Host Discussion on Youth Mentorship and Development

GhanaThink Diaspora will host a panel discussion on youth mentorship tomorrow (6th December) at 14:00 GMT.  Joining the chat will be eight leaders working on various youth development initiatives in Africa and beyond.

The goal of the conversation is for panellists to share their experiences with and insights on youth and the potential for mentorship to impact them personally while contributing to wider social/economic/national/global development." We're lucky to have pan-African representation amongst you all. There'll be voices from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and the U.S. - Thelma Boamah, co-moderator
The chat, to be hosted via Google + Hangout. follows our previous discussion on youth and agriculture under Diaspora Camp Online Series. This initiative is the brainchild of members of the diaspora arm of GhanaThink Foundation based in various countries.  

We hope to have an insightful, engaging, and enjoyable conversation. Feel free to join us via Diaspora Camp Google +, Twitter and Facebook channels. We'll be sharing updates via #DiasporaCamp across platforms.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Capturing the Second Junior Camp Ketasco

Students and guests enjoying themselves during the ice-breaker
It seems like a long time ago when GhanaThink’s Junior Camp programme was birthed at Ketasco. On that fateful day, mentors from different professional domains converged at the school to give students insights into fields such as as engineering, computing, entrepreneurship, and banking. The buzz generated on campus that day was like no other, leaving everyone clamouring for more. The Junior Camp train has since stopped at numerous destinations: Kalpohin, Pojoss, Presec, Krogiss, Labone, Armesco, Smasco, etc. Counting them all would be an arduous task! To sustain some of the benefits derived from Junior Camps, a GhanaThink team led by Thelma Boamah is developing the Junior Camp Internship Programme (JCIP). 

After a few tries, the second Junior Camp Ketasco finally happened on 15th November. As usual, we had mentors from diverse backgrounds, from within the school to corporate Accra and beyond. I was especially thrilled to have new good friends, Tom Tagoe of GH Scientific and Heather Beem of Practical Education Network, around to guide students in science and engineering respectively. 

The programme started about an hour later than it should. After welcome greetings, introduction, and the ice-breaker session, a team from Webster University (Philomina and Leonard) addressed the students on educational and growth opportunities open to them in that institution. They asserted that the international environment and liberal arts curriculum provided by Webster would prepare them adequately for the future. After this session, we had two rounds of mentoring. Students were free to choose from a wide array of topics, led by various mentors, as presented below:

Agbenyegah Kirk – Software Development
Thomas Tagoe – Neuroscience/Science
Heather Beem – Engineering
Emmanuel S. Amekplenu – Leadership and Banking
Akpah Prince – Media
Alorwu Noah – Mobile Learning
Seyram Kartey - Game Development
Daniel Owusu – Academic Excellence/Volunteering
Yayra Tay Thomsen – Fashion/Personal Branding
Leonard Suransky – International Relations
V.N. Tamakloe – Leadership
Philomina Abakah – Customer Service/Marketing
Gameli Adzaho – Environmental Health

Mentors introducing themselves to the gathering
The gathering broke for lunch after the second mentoring round. Subsequently, we had two optional sessions. The first one focused on various educational experiences of mentors (Heather, Yayra and Tom) outside Ghana, while the second one dealt with transitioning from Ketasco to the outside world. I was with the latter group, and I must say we had very interesting insights shared by alumni who completed recently and those from earlier year groups. The original panel consisted of Junior Camp lead Nathaniel Alpha, Benjamin Boafor (medical practitioner), and Kirk Agbenyegah (software developer). Along the way we were joined by an enthusiastic bunch of old students who happened to pass through campus after attending a funeral in Keta. People like Ebenezer, Efo Dela, Setorli Tamakloe, Setorli’s sister, and Jeremiah, all shared their “dzolalian tales”. The take away, really, was to utilise various opportunities created in the school environment as these opportunities (for growth) would not be available in the future. I was pleased to learn majority of the panellists passed through the Writers and Debaters Club, a club I’ve been affiliated with since my Ketasco days.
Nat making a point on the "life in Ketasco" panel
Junior Camp Ketasco was a big success thanks to the efforts of the GhanaThink team, and also staff like Victor Tamakloe, John Attipoe, Noah Alorwu, and some students who helped to organise stuff around the campus. One-on—one feedback received from the mentors was positive. Someone said something along the lines of “you have a great school here”. The students expressed their delight too, as they shared useful new things they picked up from the sessions they joined. The Junior Camp programme is about awakening and nurturing the inner potential of Ghanaian students. The whole enterprise is led by Nathaniel Alpha, who was part of the very first Junior Camp team. It is gratifying to see what was started in Ketasco quickly scale to have national impact, led by one of the school’s products. That is the kind of confidence we want to build in the future generation.

Have you ever participated in a Junior Camp or mentoring event? What were your experiences?