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 Education  Mali Project #18622

STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation

by iNERDE Inc.
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STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
STEM Education in Africa: Changing the Equation
Scholarship Recipients
Scholarship Recipients

This year we had our biggest program ever with 3 camps held simultaneously for primary school, middle school, and high school students. We added new science units in biology and earth sciences for our primaries, a week-long architecture program at a local university for our middle schoolers, and theatre, dance, and drawing for the two groups. Our high school camp focused on programming, offering for the first time ever in Mali a high school computer science curriculum equivalent to that being introduced in the world's most developed countries.

Thanks to your generosity we were able to offer full scholarships to 21 public school students that would not have otherwise been able to attend. The students came from public schools in Lafiabougou and Badalabougou in Bamako and we had one special student who came from the neighboring town of Kati each day. You can see most of the students in the picture above.

Mali has an increasingly segregated school system where only poor students attend public schools due to the severe lack of resources the government can devote to them. iNERDE is one of the few educational programs in Mali that gives public school students access to an enriched environment and integrates public and private school students. The public school students typically are behind their peers in private schools academically so we have to dedicate a lot of resources to make this work. It does work, however. Malian society retains a strong element of social solidarity and we constantly see the more advanced kids helping the kids who are struggling - and better learning themselves in the process. We've also seen some of the public school kids that have been coming to our camps for successive years making extraordinary strides in their intellectual development.

Many of our students came this year for the robots as word of our AERobot program last year and the success of Mali's National Robotics Team at the FIRST Global competition in Washington, DC spread around the country. They got a full dose of robots this summer, with primary school students programming AERobots, middle school students the wheeled VEX IQ robots and high school students working on autonomous robots in simulation as well as programming the sliver medal winning REV robot built by TEAM Mali for FIRST Global. Our middle school and high school camps also benefitted from the participation of several members of the National Robotics Team who gladly shared their experience and inspiration.

This is the third year I've taught in our summer camp. One of the most gratifying things to me is to see kids coming back for their second or third year and to see how alive their intellects have become. At the beginning of the summer we usually ask everyone what they want to become when they grow up - in the first and second year the universal answer for boys was "soccer player". While the boys still love soccer, this year there wasn't a returning boy ... or girl .. we didn't give an elaborate answer like they wanted to invent nanorobots to cure genetic diseases or use radiotelescopes to study black holes.

We also have teachers that returned to us for their 2nd, 3rd or even 4th year and it is also very gratifying to hear them talk about how the summer camp has changed them as teachers. We are also seeing in Bamako some of the schools talking about teaching STEM. This is a tetonic plate shift for Mali.

You have contributed to great things in Mali and we've taken a significant step together to making the world a better place for all of us. Thank you.

Michael Leventhal / Chief Nerdy Development Officer / textscience@gmail.com

Young Roboticist
Young Roboticist
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Mali I - Bamako's Own Robotics Hack-A-Thon
Mali I - Bamako's Own Robotics Hack-A-Thon

If it has been awhile since iNERDE last sent an update, it is because we have had some amazing successes and have been swamped with work that is fulfulling our objective to change the equation in Africa.

Perhaps the biggest news is that the Malian government, recognizing the importance of our project, is now an official sponsor, is partially funding us, and working hard themselves to provide all the support they can to carry out our mission and to raise it to the next level to achieve a broad impact on their educational system. We've formed a consortium, EMMME (Education for the Modern World (Monde, in French) : Mali Emergent, consisting of universities, schools, professional organizations, and entrepreneurs, with government sponsorship and encouragement, that is putting in place a plan for introducting transformative education on a large scale in Mali.

It has been very rewarding for us working in Mali to find so many people, despite the challenges the country faces, and the challenges individuals face every day, willing to support our goals and give us their all to help realize them. We have many volunteers - some who can barely afford the transportation fare to get to our center - who believe in their country and come here because they see something very important happening.

Our Innovation Center has been open and in operation since December. Right now, our primary activity is training Mali's national middle school and high school robotics teams. Didn't know that Mali had national robotics teams? Of course not, they didn't exist until iNERDE - and you, our supporters - created them. We held a nationwide selection and took 41 brilliant young people from 17 different schools - seeds we are planting in the educational system - and have given them months of specialized, intensive training in robotics and programming. We took what has to one of the toughest bus rides in the world - 40 hard hours - to bring the team to Dakar where they competed in an regional robotics competition. We're also holding local competitions in Bamako. And we are preparing to send 7 high school students to the United States to compete in the Olympics of high-school robotics, FIRST Global. These activities have been covered in the local press and even on Mali's national television network.

We are preparing for 4th STEM summer camp in Bamako. A big leap for iNERDE is that this year we will offer programs for kids from the 4th grade through high school. With all the work we've done with robots this year, you can be sure that robots and programming will be a big part of the curriculum but we are definitely not ignoring all the other areas of science and technology with new modules in biology using foldscopes and civil engineering. We are also adding more emphasis on integrating the arts into our program.

The first two summer camps were free and for this reason attracted many families that had never heard of STEM. Last year we started charging a modest fee, while giving scholarships to almost half our students. This year we are raising our prices as there are many families who now understand the importance of STEM education for the future of their children and their country and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices. This is in line with our stated goal of moving to being self-sustaining, without relying on your generosity. The Malian government has stepped up and the parents have stepped up and they are doing their best to support our initiative.

That said, I would like to ask for your continued financial support, if you have the means to help us. We have successful established our ability to survive over the long term, with or without your support. That alone is a good reason to continue to support us. But, to paint the picture honestly, our means are very meager and lacks of means does greatly impact the quality of our offering and the number of kids we can reach. Our facilities are modest to say the least, and it is hard to teach tech to kids in poorly lit rooms, without good tables and chairs, with ancient computers, with constant electricity cuts (that blow out light bulbs and our power supplies), an ancient diesel generator for the power cuts that makes so much noise we have to yell out our lessons. We make do with what we have and we are grateful for what we have, but coming from the US and knowing what is normal there, it hurts me everyday to recognize that my kids in Mali will never have the chance to catch up if we cannot continue to upgrade our infrastructure. The means that the Malian government and Malian parents can provide can meet our operational expenses but it cannot give us the ability to improve what we have.

Hey, we need laptops! Many companies routinely discard or donate old laptops ... with the cost of new laptops being so low a company can almost buy a new laptop from the tax benefit of donating the old one. Please ask your employer if they have laptops they can donate to iNERDE. We have about 30 working desktop computers in our center ... which shutoff everytime we have a power cut (and sometimes for good due to damaged power supplies). Right now we are experiencing 5 or 6 power cuts per day. We could solve the problem if only we had laptops instead of desktops.

While you are asking your company if they have laptops to donate, perhaps you could also see if they are interested in being a sponsor of TEAM MALI for the FIRST Global robotics olymics. 150 nations are sending teams to Washington, DC July 14-19. There is extensive media coverage already taking place for this event of enormous magnitude, reach, and even political implications. You would think companies would be lining up for a sponsorship opportunity - and TEAM MALI is going to be one of most extraordinary stories to come out of the event - yet, we're still at 0 sponsors.

It's a bit perplexing, but as iNERDE continues to rack up successes our donor support has fallen to abysmally low levels. Our effort to raise money for the expenses of TEAM MALI has yielded, to date, $150. Is it because all of you have nothing on your minds now except TRUMP? I guess it is one thing to be in the US for the Trump era, but is something else to be in Africa where life and economic prosperity are fragile and very dependant on what the powerful nations do. I think Trump's slogan should have been "Make America Self-Obsessed Again" because, more than anything, that is what he's done whether you love him or hate him. Our beloved supporters, thank you for helping to get where we are and to bring the world a step closer to being just and prosperous for all the continents - but please forget about Trump for a little while and continue to support the creation of the world we all want to live in.

Dakar Robotics Competition TEAM Mali on the Podium
Dakar Robotics Competition TEAM Mali on the Podium
The Bus to Dakar wasn't too comfortable!
The Bus to Dakar wasn't too comfortable!
Mali's Best Roboticists on the way to Dakar
Mali's Best Roboticists on the way to Dakar
TEAM MALI High School Building their Robot
TEAM MALI High School Building their Robot
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High School Students with Robotics Prof Michael
High School Students with Robotics Prof Michael

We have big news to share in this update. iNERDE is training Mali's first national high school robotics team and will bring them to Washington, DC in July to compete in the FIRST Global "Olympic's Games" of STEM. The travel expenses for our team is being entirely covered by a sponsor.

There is much more to this story. Ultimately, this news is about a movement that is gaining ground in Mali in which iNERDE is playing a very significant role and a movement gaining ground in the world which iNERDE has the honor to be part of. Since creating a permanent office and learning center in Bamako, iNERDE has been reaching out and building partnerships with the many organizations in Mali working on education, science and technology, and economic development. Our active participation in Mali's first Celebration of Science at the University of Bamako brought us together with partners who are now working with us not only to bring Mali's team to FIRST Global but to bring STEM and robotics to schools throughout Mali. This project, initiated and led by iNERDE, is now under the aegis of the Malian Ministry of Higher Education and Research, the governmental entity charged with the spread of scientific culture in all levels of education throughout the country.

Thanks to you, our supporters, iNERDE has run STEM summer camps for three years in Mali and we created CodeNERDE, the first robotics bootcamp in Mali. We've been running on pure faith for a lot of this time - the challenges and the financial worries have been endless - but we've seen the difference our program has made on hundreds of kids and we couldn't quit. We're going to keep doing what we've been doing, expanding our summer programs, training Malian teachers, and opening our center for afterschool classes. But we've now started our next phase where we can begin to realize our broader mission, to make a durable impact on education on a large scale in West Africa and to contribute through education to economic development and opportunity for youth on a national level.

We still need you! Our larger mission has not come with larger resources yet, though, as we've always done, we're know what we are going to do before we know how we will find the resources to do it. In December of 2017 we reached the funding goal we set for 2016! - yet we still ran our camp in 2016, albeit on a shoestring's shoestring, and we were even able to give full scholarships to 30 public school students. In 2017 we are going to initiate new funding campaigns with very specific objectives such as providing summer camp scholarships again this year and further developing our learning center to become a self-sustaining operation in the next year. We still need a leg up to reach financial independence and we will be asking you to help us if you can, but iNERDE's goal is to be in a position where our activites are supported by African resources. It will take us some more time, but we have made and will continue to make substantial progress on this front.

We also want to thank you for your openness to an African project, for your belief that the efforts of Africans to improve their part of the world matters in your part of the world. Mali is a secular, democratic, muslim-majority country which has been forced to deplete its resources fighting foreign islamist terrorists holed up in a remote region. As investors have steered away from Mali, the economic consequences on its population have been heavy. Yet Mai remains free, optimistic and open to the world. The Malian people know that if not everyone in the world is open to Mali, the majority in America and in the rest of the world are with them and they are grateful. As are all of us in iNERDE.

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Recognizing Inspiring African Teachers
Recognizing Inspiring African Teachers

There is a great deal in the works at iNERDE right now. Let's start with iNERDE's newest initiative, APPEX, an award for Mali's most inspiring teachers.

APPEX : African Program for the Promotion of Educator Excellence

To our Malian friends: mark the date December 17! iNERDE is searching for the best teachers in Mali (this year, limited to the region of Bamako). iNERDE will award the prize "Ciwara of Education" to three teachers (from primary, secondary, and university levels) at the APPEX Gala – "A night of elegance and excellence".

While APPEX is a new iNERDE program, it is integral to our core mission to « change the equation » in Africa, starting from its system of education. There are, among Mailain educators, real heros – a lot of real heros – who give everything for their kids and for the future of their country, often in extremely difficult conditions. A country that understands the importance of honoring its best teachers is a country that is on the path to a prosperous future.

For more information on APPEX in French, click here. Go directly to the french-language web form to nominate a Ciwara candidate here. Nominations are open until November 17.

That's not all happening in the next few weeks. Not by a long shot.

Coming Soon ! The Grand Opening of the iNERDE Learning Center in Bamako

The iNERDE team is working around the clock to open our Learning Center and office in our Bamako headquarters. It is located in the little « Latin Quarter » of Faladiè alongside the School of Progress, the Ecole Supérieure of Technology and Management, and the campus of Malian Union for the Blind. The Learning Center will boast a climate-controlled Computer Room with 30 desktop computers and a high-speed DSL connection. The preparation of the Computer Room was only possible thanks to a donation from the just keep livin Foundation. The just keep livin Foundation works for the well-being of young people in the United States. It is very unusual for this organization to fund projects outside the United States but it seems that jkl has a particular soft spot for Mali ! EMC Corporation, TechWriters without Borders and OvaScience are also valued contributors of hardware that will be essential for our Learning Center.

Robots will be the centerpiece of our Learning Center will the creation of iNERDE Robotics Clubs. The Robotics Clubs are the continuation of CodeNERDE, the new programming and robotics bootcamp we launched in the Ntomo Innovation Academy 2016. The Clubs are just the beginning! iNERDE is making plans to train national youth teams to represent Mali in international robotics competitions. We’ll have exciting news to report about this in our next newsletter. Stay tuned!

Meet us at the Bamako Children’s Conference (SEBA), December 22-26

iNERDE will unveil its Learning Center, the Robotics Clubs, and Ntomo Innovation Academy 2017 at the Bamako Children’s Conference (SEBA – Salon de l’Enfance de Bamako), December 22-26. SEBA is a major national conference for and about the children of Mali. It is sponsored by the Malian Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Children and Families, held at the City of Children (La Cité des Enfants) in Bamako. iNERDE is going to greet the world there at its exhibition booth. We are also going to hold workshops for children and their parents to give everyone a preview of the activities planned for Ntomo Innovation Academy 2017 and the Robotics Clubs. Our program for the coming year will be available, our Learning Center will be open to the public and we will begin accepting enrollments. If you have the good fortune to be in bustling Bamako at the end of December, be sure to be there!

Of course, we're deep in planning for next year's Ntomo Innovation Academy camps.

Ntomo Innovation Academy, 2017 Edition

iNERDE’s STEM summer camp program grew in 2016 with the addition of a second camp, CodeNERDE, for older children. Our expansion will continue in 2017 with new learning modules and a range of activities for an even larger range of ages. To be continued …

We can't help looking back with satisfaction at all we accomplished in 2016 - thanks to donors to this project.

Recap Ntomo Innovation Academy, 2016 Edition

We brought the 3rd edition of our educational camps to a successful conclusion, perhaps even a brillant culmination of our best camps ever. We added lots of new lessons to our core camp around computer science, robotics, the internet, and biology. We launched a new camp for advanced students in programming and robotics, CodeNERDE. And we improved the training of our dedicted teachers, getting all of our lesson plans onto an online platform.

You’ll find lots of information about the Ntomo Innovation Academy 2016 here on our website. There are weekly reports and quite a few videos. The videos are in French (and sometimes in the local language, Bambara), but almost all of them have English subtitles.

Finally, you did know that we speak French? You can read this project report in the official language of Mali if you like!

iNERDE does speak French, finally!

For the first time, this report is available in French, alongs with the usual English language version. If you’d like to read it in its sister language, click here.

Given that iNERDE projects take place in french-speaking countries, a little explanation of why this has taken us until now is in order. iNERDE began as an initiative of expatriate Africans studying in the United States. Determined to give back to their home countries, these young university students got together to bring innovative methods of education developed in North America to Africa. However, having become used to using the language of their adopted country, and having, as well, developed a network of English-speaking supporters, iNERDE naturally fell into using English as its working language. We came to recognize that our exclusive use of English made it increasing difficult to be fully connected to the communities we serve. We’re proud to announce that we’ve returned to our roots, with the opening of an office and a permanent learning center in Bamako and that we are, now, officially a bilingual organization.

iNERDE Learning Center, Bamako, Mali
iNERDE Learning Center, Bamako, Mali
CodeNERDE 1st Graduating Class of Roboticians
CodeNERDE 1st Graduating Class of Roboticians
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The AERobot : Bringing Robotics to Africa
The AERobot : Bringing Robotics to Africa

iNERDE's Colonie de Vacance STEM has been rechristened Ntomo Innovation Academy and is full swing in its third year in Mali and just completed its second year in Senegal. This year we've brought robots to Mali! We are using Affordable Education Robots created by Harvard University to help bring robotics education to places like Mali. AERobots are programmed with a visual language called MiniBloq that makes programming accessible to elementary school children with its easy manipulation of program structures, visual clues, and the elimination of syntax problems. Another important plus to the AERobots is that, unlike, for example, code.org, internet access is not required.

Nothing like the iNERDE robotics program has ever been seen in Mali - or most of Africa. Even instruction in programming is rare here ... at the University level. It has certainly never been offered to elementary school students. The kids are "crushing it" - we've formed a young cadre totally turned on to programming. We have two levels of classes. CodeNerde is our new follow-on program designed for the graduates of our main camp who have an basic background in the science needed to study robotics, computer science, and programming. CodeNerde students are getting a good dose of the physics of sensors, the philosophy of robots and artificial intelligence, and all the fundamental programming concepts applicable to robotic control. We have also added robots to our first year program, Ntomo Innovation Academy. All students have gotten an introduction to the AERbot and one of our project teams is preparing for a Hack-A-Thon where they will use basic robotic programming concepts.

iNERDE is getting a lot of attention in Mali. We were invited to lead a scientific exhibition for children on water issues which won us accolades from the President of the National Assembly of Mali and the Minister of Women, Children, and Families. iNERDE graduates were trained by us to serve as guides for the exhibition. We are working on plans to run our program year round, including bringing our unique robotics curriculum directly to the schools in Mali.

iNERDE is firing on all cylinders … except one. This year has been our worst year for fundraising. We are grateful for our wonderful donors that believed in us when we were more inspiration than reality but now that we have established a solid and recognized program in two countries we have encountered, ironically, some falling off of interest in our project from donors outside Africa. We understand that we are just one of many good causes and is natural that our « angels » that helped us get started expect us to develop a sustainable funding base. We are almost there – almost, but not yet. Despite not having enough money to run our camp this summer we decided we had to go forward. And people did step forward to help us. Donors contributed enough funds to pay for 30 full scholarships for poor public school students. Malians stepped forward and contributed over two thousand dollars, at a considerable sacrifice for many of these donors. We are, however, still a little short and are at risk to not be able to fund our last week of camp and acquit all our financial commitments in Mali. Not by much… less than $1500 … but this is a very significant sum in Mali.

We are so grateful for your support and the interest all of our donors have shown in our project and the children of West Africa. If you are able, please do consider making a small donation now to get us to the finish line. We will have significant developments to announce soon with respect to stablizing our funding situation and we promise to continue to do amazing things in West Africa that are really changing the equation.

Katikon Proudly Shows Off our Computer Center
Katikon Proudly Shows Off our Computer Center
CodeNerde Students Learning Robotics Programming
CodeNerde Students Learning Robotics Programming
Young Engineers Overlooking Their Solar Ovens
Young Engineers Overlooking Their Solar Ovens
Assoumaou Leading an Engineering Class
Assoumaou Leading an Engineering Class
iNERDE's Teaching Team in Mali
iNERDE's Teaching Team in Mali
Training for the Robotics Hack-A-Thon
Training for the Robotics Hack-A-Thon
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Organization Information

iNERDE Inc.

Location: Stoughton, MA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @inerdeorg
Project Leader:
Rakibou Ouro-Djobo
Arlington, MA United States
$13,921 raised of $25,000 goal
 
150 donations
$11,079 to go
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