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STEM Education in Botswana: Girls Getting Geeky

by Stepping Stones International
STEM Education in Botswana: Girls Getting Geeky
STEM Education in Botswana: Girls Getting Geeky
STEM Education in Botswana: Girls Getting Geeky
STEM Education in Botswana: Girls Getting Geeky
STEM Education in Botswana: Girls Getting Geeky
STEM Education in Botswana: Girls Getting Geeky

The purpose of this project was for participants to explore the following six key issues / areas suggested by Design Squad Global:

  1. Help people stay healthy
  2. Help people stay safe
  3. Protect the environment
  4. Improve our school
  5. Make older people’s lives better
  6. Make children’s lives better

Children brainstormed the key issues and were tasked with ranking the top 3 priorities. Once the priorities were identified the solutions started flowing. The children selected Help people stay healthy in their environment (designing a dustbin to help keep the environment clean).

During this session the participants focused on turning their dustbin design into a prototype. Participants discussed and assigned tasks on how they were going to begin building their prototype with the materials they were supplied.

Participants successfully worked in groups, coordinating their efforts and clearly communicating to reach their goal.

Tactics such as using duct tape to secure the plastic and ensure it will not break were used. The child explained, “We are adding extra sticky tape to make sure that it is strong and so that it will not break” said one of the participants.

They further explained that they used a plastic inside stating, “We have put a black garbage bag inside to test if it would fit. When the bag becomes full it can be emptied in the big dustbins outside”

The children’s satisfaction at the end was healthy, “We are very happy with our dustbin. We think it will work because we designed it well and built it well.”


Building the Emergency Shelter Prototype

Defining the need: The purpose of this session was to design an emergency shelter prototype.

Emergency Shelter Prototype: During this session, the participants focused on strengthening their understanding of the design process by focusing on the brainstorming and design steps. The participants discovered which architectural shapes (triangles, squares etc.) make the strongest building blocks. Participants were tasked with designing an Emergency Shelter prototype. A prototype is a quick and simple model that lets engineers and inventors test whether their ideas work.

“We think this will be a strong shelter because we have used a triangle shape and added a base”

Emergency Shelter Life-Size Challenge This session focused on the participants’ ability to take a prototype, visualize and build a life-size version. Participants worked as one group to build a life-size emergency shelter using different methodologies. Participants used their prototypes as a guide to model and plan the construction of their life-size emergency shelter. During the session participants’ understanding of the importance of building a prototype became increasingly obvious and they were pleased in the time invested during the prototype phase. Their understanding of the strongest structural shapes was also heightened as they undertook building the emergency shelter. Participants then tested the design by seeing how many of them could fit inside the shelter. They also noticed the strength of their walls and made adjustments / corrections to their design (using additional tape to strengthen walls and close gaps


STEM took a turn this quarter with a focus on computer lessons, building boys’ and girls’ information technology skills for future use either in employment or business. Several groups rotate through the computer lab. Before each session participants are briefed on the lesson objectives followed by tutorials then a practical. On average there are 60 children and 70 youth who attend computer sessions a week.

Basic computing skills and using programs such as Microsoft Office Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Mastering the basics is critical for the students to attain jobs. In usual Stepping Stones International’s style the computer lessons are combined with personal development. The children and young adults research topics on health, peer pressure, interviewing, resume writing, relationships and present the topics to their peers. The added value is that they have the opportunity to become more fluent in English while presenting.  

2019 computer lessons started off with a bang because the children learned about computer coding. This is the most exciting part to them as they get to see how animations and television programs for chlidren are created. Coding was introduced to them to show it is possible for them to choose coding career and can be done by everyone.

 At the end of the coding session, Thato (changed name), 15 years old jumped up and said, " I know what I want to be when I grow up, a coder!"  He continued as if the epiphany would never end, "I am going to make movies and code the characters and code their actions and code....everything!" 



Grandmothers went geeky with the girls this quarter.  The Grannies are young at heart, wise and active in the village.  Stepping Stones International has guided 60 grandmothers to setting up support groups. The Grannies rallied and decided on making plastic hand bags as an income generation project. These are grandmothers who are taking care of their grandchildren in the village and struggling to acquire the basic needs for their families and their grandchildren.

Part of the objective of making recycled plastic hand bags is to clean up the environment by directly using materials that would otherwise be discarded. Not only are they discarded, but they’re often burnt, emitting harmful gases and pollutants into the atmosphere. This project was addressing the Sustainable Development Goal No.1 (no poverty) and 15 (lives on land).

After the grannies crocheted their handbags they sold them.  One of the grannies was happy to be part of this project, mentioning that it would help her buy electricity at her house because it has been a while since she had the lights on.

The products will be sold in the north of Botswana where there is high toursit traffic. In addition SSI is looking for a market in the U.S. to sell the handbags for the grandmothers.. 



Highlights of the six week program with 12- 14 year olds 


The Pop Fly! Challenge

The focus of this session was to engage participants in an open-ended activity which encourages them to see engineering as a creative problem solving technique / approach that the ‘every day’ person is able to use. Participants were also introduced to the design process and how to apply it to their first hands-on activity. 

The purpose of this session was for students to learn how to design a device that can launch a ping pong ball and hit a target.


Helping Hand Challenge

The session focused on the following concept: In order to grab something a device needs two arts or arms that can go on each side of the item being grabbed. The grabber also needs to have a way to press the two arms together to make a pinching motion. Participants were shown different levers (tongs and scissors) pointing out that each device is a lever, with a fulcrum and arms. 

Participants were then tasked with using materials (mentioned above, including split pins) to design and build their lever or ‘helping hand’. Their lever needed to be strong enough to be used to reach and lift a plastic bag (filled with sweets) off a hook placed above head height and hold onto the bag. 


Safe Landing Challenge 

The purpose of this design is to create an object that can protect a container so it’s not damaged when dropped to the ground.  

During this session, the participants focused on strengthening their understanding of the design process by focusing on the brainstorming and design steps. The participants discovered ways to design a shock absorbing system protect a container as it drops to the floor. 

Participants were exploring gravity, air resistance and how works to lessen the impact of a fall parachutes. 

The participants also learned that safe landing designs help in situations where the only way people can receive food, medicine and other essential supplies is by dropping them from the plane.



The Seismic Shake-up Challenge 

This session focused on the having the participants design a structure that can withstand an earthquake.

 After the recent small earthquakes that have been happening in Botswana the participants were glad to know that there are designs that can actually prevent damages. 

The participants designed a structure that has a bit of space underneath the house foundation. They mentioned that this helps prevent the house from falling apart.  


"We should leave some space under the house to prevent it from cracking up or falling   apart."



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Organization Information

Stepping Stones International

Location: Salt Lake Cty, UT - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @SteppingStonesIntl
Project Leader:
Lisa Jamu
Salt Lake Cty, UT United States
$6,813 raised of $8,000 goal
101 donations
$1,187 to go
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