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 Education  Kenya Project #34126

Digital Blacksmiths Kenya - 3D printing from trash

by TechforTrade
Digital Blacksmiths Kenya - 3D printing from trash
Digital Blacksmiths Kenya - 3D printing from trash
Digital Blacksmiths Kenya - 3D printing from trash
Digital Blacksmiths Kenya - 3D printing from trash
Digital Blacksmiths Kenya - 3D printing from trash
Digital Blacksmiths Kenya - 3D printing from trash
Teachers attending the trial workshop.
Teachers attending the trial workshop.

Dear Supporter.

I'm just back from Nairobi where I've spent time with Solomon, Charles & Selessor, our local team members who have been managing the microscope trial. We have also held meetings with the Kenya Curriculum Development Authority (KICD), part of the Ministry of Education, and the key decision makers that will influence whether our small trial, which officially ends this month, will receive support to continue and expand into many more schools.

To recap, we've been trialling our 3D printed science teaching microscope, made from material created from recycled plastic bottles, in 11 Nairobi schools, 10 secondary and one primary. The target school population was mainly pupils in years 2 and 3 in secondary school and grade 7 of the primary schoolOver a two term period  around 475 out of the schools' target population of 800 were able to use the microscope. At the end of November we held a workshop with a selection of teachers who had participated in the trial, both to solicit feedback on the trial itself and to gain some insights into how we might proceed.

Overall feedback from teachers was very positive and our microscope was praised, both for its simplicity of use and low cost; coming in at around a quarter of the cost of the traditional light microscope which is provided to schools at a unit price of $130 and which may only be used by one pupil at a time, whereas our digital microscope can be plugged into a computer and/or projector and shared by a number of pupils. Many students admitted that they struggled to use the traditional light microscope and therefore depended on the images contained in text books, whereas the images from our digital microscope were clearer and it was easier for a teacher to share observations with groups of pupils who were all looking at the same image. Although the duration of the trial was insufficient to gain insights into whether the introduction of the microscope impacted results, 90% of the teachers participating in the trial stated that the microscope made teaching and learning easier and more enjoyable and engaging.

The teachers attending the workshop were keen to see the microscopes rolled out to more schools and were brimming with ideas for other science teaching aids which we could consider making using the same process. These included molecular structures, models of the DNA structure, skeletons, both whole and specific parts as well as teaching aids for visually impaired learners such as a Periodic Table. They also put forward a small number of improvements which they felt would make the microscope easier to use and we have already started to address these suggestions.

However, if we are going to be able to build on the trial and scale up use of the microscope in many more schools, we will need to persuade KICD to change the current curriculum requirement for pupils to be able to both describe the workings of a light microscope and also to demonstrate that they are able to calibrate it to adjust magnification; a skill which isn't required with the digital version.

It's for this reason that we held meetings last week with KICD and it seems that the timing could not have been better as our visit coincided with the launch of the new national curriculum which is based around the concepts of increasing use of digital tools in education and a focus on 'experiential learning'. As a result KICD have agreed to bring together relevant parties across the Ministry in January to discuss how adoption of our microscope within Kenyan schools might be accelerated.

At the outset of our campaign we said that if our trial was successful, it would stimulate interest within the education sector and justify scaling up local production of educational tools such as microscopes and other interactive learning aids. It now feels like this could be a real possibility and so we'll continue working to make this happen and hopefully will be able to share more positive news with you in the New Year.

We would not have got this far without your support and if you would like to see our work continue then please consider helping us again with either a once off or regular donation.

Wishing you a wonderful festive season.


Teachers attending the workshop
Teachers attending the workshop
Our 3D printed digital microscope trial is officially underway in Nairobi! We spent the month of July working with teachers and lab technicians from 10 schools, rapidly building and distributing devices, and sitting in on classes to see Biology lessons first hand. 
Our Training Day, held at the University of Nairobi’s Maker Space, went really well. Teachers each used digital microscopes to view specimens, became confident using the new device and even shared ideas around how best to work with them in the classroom. 
It’s been quite a whirlwind month, and we’d like to share some of our process and story with you:
Changes to our plan…
Our original plan was to supply 10 schools in the Nairobi area with 10 recycled digital microscopes each, using our own PET filament from plastic bottles collected locally. For two major reasons, this ended up looking different:
  • Whilst we’ve still produced a small number of recycled microscopes, many of the microscopes we’ve distributed are made from PLA filament. We’ve experienced some difficulties using the recycled PET filament to produce the microscopes and so to get the microscopes out before the end of term, we chose to go with PLA filament for now whilst we iron out the PET issues. Once the issues are resolved we’ll start to distribute more microscopes made from recycled material.
  • Because we selected a number of lower-income schools to work with, we realised the majority didn’t have laptops that students could access. We decided to redirect some of our trial budget to securing a few refurbished laptops from our friends at ComputerAid and donating laptops kitted out with the Endless Operating System – packed with internet-free content designed for schools. 
  • As a result of this limited access to computers, we have given an average of 3-5 microscopes per school, and are focussed on expanding the number of schools gradually as feedback pours in. 
The Schools
We’re working with 10 schools in the Korogocho, Dandora, Baba Dogo, Kariobangi, Mathare, Huruma and Kangemi areas. Nine of these schools are secondary schools and one is a primary school. 
Here’s some of the initial feedback:
“The microscope is easy to use because you just need to have a computer, which has been provided for us” 
— Student 
“I understood the topic taught very well because I managed using the microscope by myself”
Student, Kariobangi North Girls School
“I prefer using the digital microscope because I am unable to close one eye!” 
Student, St. Lavida High School 
"(The digital microscopes) should be made available on the market so that all students can benefit”
— Biology teacher, Kariobangi North Girls School 

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Organization Information


Location: London - United Kingdom
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @techfortrade
Project Leader:
William Hoyle
London, United Kingdom
$330 raised of $72,000 goal
6 donations
$71,670 to go
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