Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa

by Captain Planet Foundation
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Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Meaningful Making: Eco-Innovations in Africa
Icebreaker Activity at Genius Event in Nairobi
Icebreaker Activity at Genius Event in Nairobi

Global Minimum (GMin) kicked off the year with an Educator Training in Mombasa, where we trained 37 professionals involved in the Mombasa Girls in STEM Solve IT Project. The project aims to empower girls to take a keen interest in STEM based subjects by having women professionals from Mombasa train and mentor 150 high school girls on a STEM-based curriculum. This project is led by alumni of the TechWomen Program in Kenya and their partners Pwani Teknowgalz, supported by the US State Department Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF), a fund that supports alumni initiatives that promote shared values and innovative solutions to global challenges. 

The training involved introduction to Design Thinking based on the d.school and IDEO.org curriculum. We kicked off with a design challenge of stacking fruits. The challenge was an introductory test for the teams to see how they can create, collaborate and work in a limited time and limited resource environment. Afterwards, we moved on to introducing the steps involved in the design thinking process and the participants got to use the Empathy Toolkit and the Problem Framing Tree to get a more practical experience of the process.

The participants were also tasked with analysing the traffic problem in Mombasa and to understand between the cause and effects. Through guidance, the participants identified their user and came up with various solutions for how to ease traffic congestion in the coastal town which included, but not limited to: encouraging the use of eco friendly bikes for short distance travels, a mobile app to track and alert users about notorious ‘matatu’ (minibus) drivers and an adjustment to a 6 hour work schedule that can help in minimising ‘rush hour’ traffic.

Towards the end of the training, the participants were given an example of how they can make their product or service sustainable by getting it into the market and how they can use the business canvass to map out several aspects of their business. Leroy Mwasaru, who is a GMin's Youth Ambassador, also shared his journey as a social innovator and how he aims to make his human-waste biogas project more sustainable while still creating impact in his school community.  

In March, GMin together with our partner, 92Y, hosted a Satellite Event in Nairobi as part of the 7 Days of Genius Festival. 20 youth gathered to discuss how past and present geniuses show a deep connection and bond to what they do and in turn become masters in their field and push the boundaries to become geniuses. We looked at examples from people like Charles Darwin, Mozart, and discussed their affiliation to their fields. We also looked at what is considered Genius in our present time and the youth noted that a lot of breakthroughs were happening in the hardware and software tech space.

Icebreaker Activity at Genius Event in Nairobi
Icebreaker Activity at Genius Event in Nairobi
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Girls at St. Elizabeth Girls Academy InLab
Girls at St. Elizabeth Girls Academy InLab

Global Minimum Inc. (GMin) faced a major headwind going into 2015. The Ebola crisis left an estimated two million children in Sierra Leone out of school for more than half a year. In the face of this large-scale epidemic, GMin responded to the Ebola crisis with a custom designed program for youth – the Hack at Home Design Challenge Series. In Kenya, our focus was to redesign the national Innovation Challenges (InChallenge) and Innovation Labs (InLab) programs.

In Sierra Leone, the Hack at Home Design Challenge Series inspired young people to invent ideas and products for challenges they faced in their communities. We engaged youth on virtual platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp and gave them continuous mentorship as they participated in each challenge. By launching Hack at Home, we prompted the young population in Sierra Leone to become part of the solution to challenges faced by the country. GMin engaged nearly 900 youth across Sierra Leone and many implemented their ideas from their homes. We assisted 42 students who develop 10 prototypes that ranged from a mini-hydro electric plant to a waste utility generator. Once schools reopened, a significant number of those students applied to the 2015 InChallenge Program, which received over 150 student project proposals.

In Kenya, the 2015 InChallenge Program inspired 160 youth to propose bold ideas that solved local community problems. In a bold initiative to double our contact hours with students and navigate through their tight academic schedules, we redesigned the InChallenge program this year from a yearlong program to a three-week intensive camp, strictly focusing on students who have had no prior experience to hands-on problem-solving in their local communities. We saw 26 students develop prototypes that ranged from a piezoelectric charger to solar panel integrated roofing sheets. In addition to our InChallenge Program, we launched our first InLab Program in Kenya at St. Elizabeth Girls Academy in Nairobi, which exposed 280 students from St. Elizabeth and surrounding schools in Nairobi to a user-centered design curriculum and hands-on STEAM workshops.

Our students continue to inspire us and their peers to create a culture of innovation in their communities. A team of young innovators from Sierra Leone – Oswald Dundas, Vandy Amos Saati and Jasonta Coker – were invited to showcase their inventions at UNICEF’s Global Innovations for Children and Youth Summit in Helsinki in November 2015. Another team of young women innovators from Kenya – Ann Karime, Sharon Teresa and Emmah Karanja – were invited to showcase their inventions at MIT’s EurekaFest in Boston and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. Enjoy some of our students’ inspiring stories in 2015.

The youth who participate in our programs are emerging as leaders in their communities, forming peer networks to mentor each other and most importantly having fun while learning. We would like to thank our partners, volunteers, and supporters in 2015 who have collaborated with us to provide a lasting impact on our youth.

Thank you for all that YOU have done to contribute to our successes in 2015!

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Designing paper prototypes for an Ideal School
Designing paper prototypes for an Ideal School

In July 2015, GMin soft launched our first InLab in Kenya at St. Elizabeth Academy, a girls only private boarding school in Karen, about 20 kilometers away from the Nairobi City Center.

One of our key aspirations within the InLabs program is to engage more girls in STEAM, as we realize there are many barriers to accessing quality education and employment opportunities.

Within just a few months from the InLabs launch, we have already hosted a series of standalone STEAM workshops, Designathons, and a Design Thinking Camp. In the standalone STEAM workshops- we introduced the students to educational toolkits such as Scratch, Empathy Toys, MaKey MaKey, Arduinos, and Adobe Photoshop Elements. The students learned how these tools can be leveraged to understand, solve and communicate community problems. At the end of the second academic term and before the students broke out for their summer holidays, we hosted a Designathon in collaboration with Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), a community-based organization in Kibera that transforms impoverished communities by collaborating with residents to create low-cost, high-impact public spaces that improve their daily lives. The Designathon focused on KDI’s latest school construction project in Kibera. The event lasted about 4 hours, and included an introduction to productive public spaces, group discussions and presentations of paper prototypes.

During the summer holiday, we hosted a 4-day Design Thinking Camp where we introduced the basic principles of design thinking processes using a thematic challenge of poor access to healthcare systems in Kenya. Students learned to empathize with diverse constraints faced by different stakeholders in the healthcare system, define problem-framing statements, brainstorm ideas, and build paper prototypes that improved the daily activities of doctors, nurses, and patients.

The early impacts of the Kenya InLab program are best conveyed through the student feedback below:

“It was nice learning more [about] the prototype. It was nice enhancing our creativity skills. It was [educational] and encouraging.”

“It was awesome coming up with different kinds of prototypes. More of a mind-opening opportunity. I learned so much from Leroy.”

“This 4-day camping session has been amazing. We learned a lot about the five steps of design thinking even though it was somehow a sort of over-thinking but we still enjoyed it. We learned how to put ourselves in other people’s feelings and try to feel what they usually feel and we appreciated the fact that it taught and also prepares us for the upcoming future. Thanks a heap and god bless you as you continue with the same spirit.”

InLab Program introduces Problem Framing Tree
InLab Program introduces Problem Framing Tree
Students learn how to use circuits in MaKey MaKey
Students learn how to use circuits in MaKey MaKey
St. Elizabeth Girls Academy Students, group shot
St. Elizabeth Girls Academy Students, group shot
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We are excited to announce that three High School girls from Kenya developed a Solar Project and visited Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in June!

In rural areas, only 5% of people have access to electricity. Even in urban areas, only 50% of people have access to electricity and they face challenges such as frequent blackouts and light rationing. In order to bring more affordable, accessible, and environmentally friendly energy solutions to rural households, Sharon Muthoni (17), Ann Karime (17), and Emmah Karanja (18) from Mary Leakey Girls High School in Kenya have decided to look into solar thin film technology and infuse them onto the iron sheet roof of off-grid households. They hope that this will improve lighting, cooking and charging phones.

In June, the three girls travelled to USA for the first time in their lives to attend the Lemelson-MIT Program's 2015 EurekaFest. The girls were exposed to life-changing mentors from MIT Photovoltaic Research Laboratory and MIT Media Lab, and had the opportunity to showcase their Thin Film Solar Project alongside the ‎InvenTeams from Lemelson-MIT Program. It was a fantastic cross-cultural experience for students from both sides of the country.

After returning to Nairobi, the girls furthered their prototype and presented their project at the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers)'s ‎ISHOW where they got to witness some great social entrepreneurs working in Kenya while at the same time showcasing their very own invention in front of them.

The three girls are set to pilot their project in Siaya County (located in the South West part of Kenya) where the county is heavily exposed to sunlight.

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Prototype Development
Prototype Development

We are proud to announce that more than 160 secondary school students from Nairobi, Nakuru and Uasin Gishu counties in Kenya submitted project proposals for this year’s InChallenge. They proposed tangible solutions to problems affecting their communities. The proposals demonstrated passion and drive that make us very excited for the future of Kenya. This year, we selected nine projects from 55 project proposals based on sustainability, feasibility, innovation and impact. Each finalist team has been invited to a three-week workshop at CEMESTEA from April 13th to May 2nd, 2015  where they have been working with GMin to make their project ideas a reality!

Our youth innovators have made a lot of progress on their prototypes. Our design-thinking workshops, mentors, guest speakers and field trips have all heavily shaped their projects, and most of them will be ready to test their prototypes in their communities over the next few weeks. They faced challenges, including finding the right materials, development time, and understanding user expectations, but with the support of their peers, they have been able to overcome many of them. The prototyping process has been incredibly empowering for our youth. The freedom to experiment, design and shape an idea so rapidly (which has become a reality) is a completely new experience for most. The next step is creating presentations to pitch their prototypes this week.

Thank you for your amazing support- please check back for another "update from the field" in July!

Mapping the Prototype
Mapping the Prototype
Planning Phase
Planning Phase
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Organization Information

Captain Planet Foundation

Location: Atlanta, GA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @captainplanetfdn
Becca Iverson
Project Leader:
Becca Iverson
Atlanta, GA United States

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