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Feb 26, 2018

Form 4 Leavers Begin at Twende!

Frank showing his rainwater harvest sketch model
Frank showing his rainwater harvest sketch model

Hello Twende supporters :)

Thank you again for your generosity and belief in what we do! We managed to raised the $5,000 in 6 weeks needed to earn a permanent spot on the Global Giving platform. This will make it easier for any future donors to support us as we continue to fundraise for the remaining $1,826 of our $10,000 goal for the end of March 2018. Plus, we have already benefited from the large amount of capacity building support Global Giving provides through its resources. For instance, Epifania, our Education Coordinator, has used Global Giving articles to start experimenting with making a Twende video! It is her first time video-editing. We’ll share results once they’re ready.

As you know, with your support, we are piloting our first design competition right now. We wanted to be able to spend more time with Form 4 Leavers, who have a six-month holiday between Form 4 and Form 5. We began last month with 12 Form 4 Leavers From 7 schools independently coming to Twende to present their ideas to our team and participate in our flagship workshop: Creative Capacity Building (CCB). During CCB, students learned about the importance of the design process, carried out a design challenge, and made a small, useful tool. They also delved deeper into their ideas and came up with sketch models using old cardboard, plastic bottles, paper, etc.

This was a great start to the competition! A handful of students regularly came back to Twende to work on their ideas, ranging from reusing shower water for toilet flushing to purifying water using the sun, and we thought the rest were working on their projects at home since a number of ideas were quite large and involved installations in the home.

But what we realized from discussions with the students is that a number of students were not as comfortable with the water theme as we had thought. Many felt like they couldn’t come up with anything innovative enough to win the cash prize, while others were so stuck but didn’t know who to ask for help since Twende staff had to be careful to ensure the fairness of the competition.

What we also realized from our conversations with the students is how creative and ambitious they are. They had plenty of ideas of things to build, if only they had the materials and tools. We heard ideas like making a machine to slash feed for livestock, a helicopter, and an infinite energy machine. Of course, not all of these are possible to finish within a few months, with little to no mechanical or electrical hands-on experience, and some limitations on materials (no vibranium here).  Instead of focusing on the ‘competition’ element, we started asking: how might we use the students’ existing ideas to encourage them to make?

We talked to a few of them about changing the direction of this design program, and they were enthusiastic to be given a different opportunity to bring ideas to life. We as Twende acknowledged that innovating a technology is hard work that requires constant support and self-motivation. Most of these students have never ever had the chance to make their dream ideas into realities because of a lack of resources and forcing them to jump immediately into a themed competition is not the right fit right now. Youth have so much natural curiosity and drive - let’s make sure they can use their strengths to grow their creative confidence and innovate!

Thus, we’ve evolved the design program for Form 4 Leavers to have two directions. The first is to continue the original water design challenge, so students who wish can continue working towards the cash prize. The second is to provide materials and technical advising to make any project they’d like. Students are now speaking with Bernard (our Director of Technology) and Chris (our Creativity Trainer) about their ideas and together, they can come up with a reasonable goal for the student to work on. If the student achieves the goal, she or he will receive a certificate, a toolkit to continue making technologies, and an invitation to a small celebration lunch.

Let’s use the helicopter idea as an example. Because making a life-sized, functioning helicopter is advanced even for technical professors, the student and Bernard & Chris might decide the goal is just to make something small fly up and down. The student will learn mechanical and electrical skills while trying to make this happen. If we realize the initial goal is not possible for some reason, then we’ll come together with the student to reshape her goal. Design requires iterations and understanding the problem - good design does not happen at once. After she does achieve a goal, Twende will give her a toolkit with some small tools like a soldering gun, soldering wire, and a dynamo motor. This student can continue experimenting with the toolkit and meet other successful makers at the celebration lunch to stay inspired. Her parents will be proud to see their child so engaged and successful, and hopefully the student comes back to Twende to keep innovating.

The steps to our goal of creating a Tanzania of innovative problem solvers who design & make their own life-improving technologies need to be small and part of a longer-term process. We cannot expect people who have little-to-no experience with making to suddenly make the next game-changing, disruptive technology. With our ability to be responsive to what we see on-the-ground in-real-time, we’re able to adjust our directions as needed to ensure our programs are effective and cost-efficient. We will continue trying ideas to find the best way forward.

Thank you for helping make this journey possible!


Debbie & the Twende team

Bahati sawing metal for her bottle opener
Bahati sawing metal for her bottle opener


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