Cracking the Code: Helping Youth in Africa Compete in the 21st Century

Africa Code Week trainer

Nnamdi shares a high five with students at a YTF partner school in Lagos, Nigeria.

Post by Nnamdi Iheme, YTF Master Trainer in Nigeria

Youth for Technology (YTF) is pulling out all the stops for this year’s Africa Code Week, an initiative spearheaded by SAP as part of its social investment in Africa. We are focused on cultivating paths to a successful future for youth across Africa and investing in our own people to help train thousands of future coders. This effort is all about encouraging and helping African youth to say their first “Hello world!” in coding and give them the ability to help build a future for themselves and their world.

Africa Code Week is an annual event usually held during the second week of October. The week involves hands-on workshops where kids and young adults are introduced to coding and encouraged to pursue a future in information technology. This helps to close the widening digital skills gap and empower Africans to build sustainable growth by creating enough qualified IT talent.

Can We Really Teach Kids to Code?

Africa Code Week trainer showing coding

Coding is simply giving instructions to a computer to execute. Just like we give instructions to fellow team members using human languages, we can also give instructions to computers using computer languages. The ability to know and structure these special computer instruction languages is what we call coding.

According to Africa Code Week organizers, coding is the literacy of the digital age: a whole new language for children to speak fluently and express themselves in the 21st century. Many different programing languages (which include more of the logic behind the coding) were built to serve a variety of platforms, but their creation all has a common thread: creative and analytical thinking. It’s clear that programming will only make our younger generation better problem solvers, touching all areas of their life.

We’re so passionate about teaching kids to code that we integrate coding into our core technology programming in YTF Academy. We teach coding all year because we know this can be a critical skill to help youth find success by completing their education and staying in a good job. This is why, in our spirit of “delivering to the community” at YTF, it was a no-brainer to embrace the Africa Code Week movement and make a quick jump onto this platform of change and hope.

Investing in Our People and the Youth We Serve

Africa Code Week train the trainer event

YTF Master Trainers provide training to teachers in Ondo state during the ACW Train-the-Trainer sessions in Akure in August.

YTF is a network partner for Africa Code Week, so we work to develop local partnerships with Ministries of Education, primary and secondary schools, universities and other non-profits to ensure as many students are equipped with coding skills as possible.

YTF strongly supports the mission of Africa Code Week as an avenue to empower future generations with the coding tools and skills they need to thrive in the 21st century workforce and become key actors of Africa’s economic development. In past years, YTF trained over 1,500 youth during Africa Code Week in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda.

This year, we are raising the bar. 

YTF Nigeria has already contacted partnering institutions around the country to work with, and we’re pleased to have plans set to train over 1,500 youth in Nigeria alone. We will work with primary and secondary schools to teach students ages 8-17 basic Scratch skills. Youth ages 18-24 will be immersed in web technologies like HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP and SQL.

In August, I traveled to Akure, Ondo State with two other Master Trainers to participate in a Train-the-Trainer session. Our wealth of experience helped prepare other teachers from Ondo State who came to be trained to eventually lead students in the 2017 edition of Africa Code Week. Most of the teachers weren’t coders, but we were able to show them that their lack of experience wouldn’t be a barrier.

This training was critical to help trainers resolve some technical issues with their computers, install software, and train them on how to program with Scratch. By the end they were able to create simple animations and games with Scratch and felt satisfied with what they learned during the training.

The trainees will take this learning back to their communities for the code week, where they will organize and carry out the program in their schools, transferring the knowledge they gained to the students.

To continue reaching more teachers and students, we’re excited to send several other YTF Master Trainers to join the Train-the-Trainer session in Abuja later this month. 

Africa! Shall We Begin?

Africa Code Week instructor

We believe so much in the future of Africa, especially as youth build a better world with technology. We are committed to putting youth on pace with the demands of a future workforce – every day in YTF Academy, and when opportunities like Africa Code Week arise. Programming is one of the most valued skills in the 21st century and we believe it’s never too early or too late to learn programming. The time is now. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get our hands on a keyboard. 

Follow our journey to see how we provide these coding skills to youth in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda during Africa Code Week next month.

Nnamdi Iheme is a Software Design Lead and Master Trainer in YTF Academy. One of his responsibilities is running Africa Code Week for YTF-Nigeria.

YTF Team’s Invention Takes Top Prize at Open Mic Africa

Ytf Open Mic (262)

In late July, we sent teams of innovators – fresh out of HackforGood 2017 – to Open Mic Africa.

Hosted by MIT’s Legatum Center, Open Mic Africa is a “Pan-African tour organized by the Legatum Center at MIT to discover and support local entrepreneurs who are bringing their knowledge to bear on their continent’s greatest challenges. Open Mic Africa aims to find and showcase Africa’s top innovators while developing a dialogue among local entrepreneurs, investors, and MIT.”

We were honored to have teams participate, and are especially pleased to report that one of YTF’s teams took home the top prize!

The winning team – Team RAA – is named after their invention: the Road Accident Alert (RAA). Their idea was conceived and developed at YTF’s HackforGood 2017, and then modified for Open Mic Africa.

Ytf Open Mic (1)

The winning idea a life-securing device that senses a car crash and alerts local authorities. It provides first responders with the GPS location of the crash site to help direct the response and reduces the time it takes to arrive on-site.

“Basically, it will reduce the rate at which people die after accidents by calling for help immediately when the accident occurs,” explained team member Emmanuel Izuwa. “This was our key point during the pitch.”

“We know there is a gap in prompt communication from an accident site to the emergency rescue team and that time gap is crucial to the survival of the victims,” said another team member, Maruf Adewole. “We move to shorten that gap.”

How the Accident Alert Came Together

Ytf Open Mic (273)

To create the alert system, hackers pulled together their experience and collaborated on skills like programming, CAD modeling, electronics, and fabrication.

Team members shared that the most challenging aspect of building RAA was getting the right sensors.

“Building a device that can detect a car crash is not easy,” said Izuwa. “Sensors must be placed in the right position for maximum efficiency of the system.”

Maruf explained one challenge was breaking down the idea into manageable tasks and finding the appropriate components to handle them.

Building an Entrepreneur Community

Ytf Open Mic (134)

While each team member brought critical skills to the table, they were all thrilled to meet and work with their peers.

YTF intern and team member, Miracle Onyeyanu, shared:“I got to meet people with skill, drive and passion for technology. I wouldn’t have met these people if not for HackforGood 2017. It was an awesome experience working with people of like minds, my team members were ready to deliver any time they were called upon. Everyone played his or her own role perfectly well. They helped me appreciate the concept of team work.”

“The experience was truly amazing,” said Maruf. “I was given the opportunity to practicalize what I have been learning for quite a while. It also introduced me to new stuff such as 3D printing and Arduino Uno.”

Calling All Innovators

YTF Open Mic team members hug

Team members offered advice to the dreamers and doers out there who are hoping to solve local problems through technology.

“My advice tech idealists and innovators is that they should acquire technical skills anywhere and anytime they can,” Emmanuel shared.

Maruf implored, “We need innovators, we seriously need them. Who could have imagined electricity could be this useful before the days of Edison, JP Morgan and Tesla. Innovations will always drive our future as long as they solve problems and make life easier. However, it could be frustrating at times. Be sure of what you are doing and be passionate with it. There will always be reward for excellence.”

“They should not give up because Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Onyenanu said. “It takes persistence and perseverance to get to the top.”

HackforGood 2017: Our Hackathon in Nigeria

Five teams had three days to create technology innovations to solve specific problems in their communities at our recent HackforGood hackathon in Anambra State, Nigeria. The cohort came with diverse experiences and skill sets, as captured in this summary of applicants.

Dig in to the final prototype ideas below!

Team Hack-botics Designed and Constructed a Robotic Arm Manipulator (Hackathon Winners!)

3d Africa Hackathon winning team

Summary: The group designed and developed a compact and cost effective robotic arm manipulator that could be modified to fit into different industrial situations.

How it works: The team used servomotors as actuators (Arduino based robotic arm with 6 degrees of freedom). A specific application idea of this product is in bakeries for lifting bread and placing it in the oven. Materials used include wood and Polylactic acids (PLA), with about 40 percent of the parts created through 3D printing. Due to time constraints, maximum payload of the arm was 100g. The design could be modified to lift heavier loads. The device could also be upgraded to use remote controls.

Team Create Good Developed a Road Traffic Accident Alert (Winners of Open Mic  Africa!)

Hackathon team open mic africa winners project accident detection

Summary: The group developed a device that detects and informs relevant authorities of critical conditions affecting vehicles and victims on local roads for a quicker emergency response.

How it works: When an accident occurs, the impact generated is measured by impact sensors attached to the device. The impact sensors generate signals which are channeled to a GPS module that generates GPS coordinates at the site of the accident. The GPS signal or coordinates dispatches the distress alarm in 10 seconds to the authorities, in this case the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) central control at Abuja. The central control would transmit the emergency response to the local FRSC station nearest to the scene of the accident for a quick emergency response. False signals can be interrupted by a pushbutton on a dash board to prevent the dispatch of a distress signal.

TeamTechkers Created A Hybrid Solar Wind Power Generation

Hackathon team techkers group photo

Summary: The group designed a hybrid solar wind power generation system to avoid the hazards associated with the use of fossil fuel such as green house effect and global warming.

How it works: The system consists of solar powered panels and a wind turbine. The two systems are interlinked with a charge controller that controls or regulates power generation. The solar system works during the day and wind system works during the night. Both systems are controlled by a timing circuit that helps to effect switching through the aid of transistors and relays for DC and contactors for AC. These charge controllers are designed using various electronic devices and are interlinked with the help of a TM electronic module.

Team Humanity Created Green Lens Crop Disease Detector

hackathon Team humanity crop disease detector

Summary: The group developed a device that helps farmers diagnose plant diseases.

How it works: According to cropsite, 40 percent of farm yield are lost before harvest yearly to pests. Nigeria recently experienced a devastating tomato disease caused by the pest Tuta absoluta which destroyed over 80 percent of tomato farms in the country within two months. This new device comprises an image acquisition module, microprocessor and a display. Through the image acquisition module, the farmer could acquire the image of the plant which is to be diagnosed. The image is then automatically processed using computer vision algorithm and Artificial Neural Network (ANN) running on the processor. The result of the test is displayed on the screen or an audio message is played in the farmer’s local language. The results may also be sent to organizations like International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) for awareness in order to prepare for a possible epidemic outbreak.

Team Vision 3D Created Eco Farm Monitor

hackathon team vision 3d

The group developed a sensing device that can monitor real-time temperature and humidity in a poultry house. This addresses issues like unfavorable weather and climatic conditions that could lead to high mortality and low egg production rates. The components include an Arduino board, DHT sensor, LCD, and battery.

project graphic

We’re grateful for our judges and student ambassadors for making the event a success, and Ventures Africa, the Guardian and Africa.com for their coverage.

A special thanks to our partners and sponsors: HP, Merck, Autodesk, Makerbot, and Women in 3D Printing, and Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University for hosting.

Find out more about 3D Africa and other YTF programs.

Strength, Stamina and Shoes: One Entrepreneur’s Story

In a showroom at a shopping mall in Lagos, Nigeria, 24-year-old Aishat runs her shoe business, Aeesha Collections. It first opened in the mall and online at the beginning of this year, but Aishat has been building her career since 2012 when she graduated from university. This past March, Aishat joined our celebration for International Women’s Day when she hosted employees from our partner Mastercard at her store. 

shoemaker nigeria mastercard employee

A Mastercard employee cuts out the leather as Aishat applies gum to the sole of the shoe.

As the CEO of Aeesha Collections, Aishat is part of an entrepreneurs’ network focused on continuing their education and uplifting each other to pursue their passion. Entrepreneurship is attractive to women on so many levels, as Aishat explained:

“Every woman wants to be on her own. No woman wants to be a liability and more so, it’s inspiring when you see a young woman like me doing well for herself in her business, you will feel like doing your own thing. Also, a salary job and getting a good pay is tasking in this country. You can’t have full possession of your time and be making good money while doing a salary job. Everyone, including women, wants their time to themselves.”

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Aishat speaks at a YTF training session for women entrepreneurs.

 

Taking a Step in the Right Direction

Aishat chose her profession as a shoemaker with determination. She explains the process she went through in exploring her options and what path her passions led her to in the end.

“Growing up, I wanted to become a banker, but I was no longer pleased with the profession,” said Aishat. “I had always wanted to learn a skill and make-up artistry was what I considered, but my cousin advised me to do something different. I had always loved shoes so I thought to myself what could be more satisfying than making them. So I made my decision to learn shoemaking and that was the start of my career.”

Aishat explains that she had only thought of shoemaking as hobby in her undergraduate career. The idea to start her business was originally “to while away time with learning a vocational skill,” but it turned into her full-time job.

shoemaker entrepreneur with mastercard employees

Mastercard employees assisting Aisha in applying gum to shoe soles at her workshop.


Technology Makes the Impossible, Possible

As many seasoned entrepreneurs can attest, not everything is sunshine and roses for a business owner. Aishat knows she will likely continue to face problems with the unequal manner society treats females in business, in addition to the many issues any business owner faces.

“Being in a male dominated industry has been really challenging, people look down on you thinking you can’t offer as much as a male would,” said Aishat. “Also, getting an investor, especially a male, never comes easy because they ask for some favor in return.”

Another major challenge is getting materials needed to make the shoes. Machines that produce quality leather soles aren’t available in Nigeria, so importing those materials adds to production costs. It’s in difficult situations like this where YTF’s technology training really makes a difference. 

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Aishat learning the basics of 3D printing up close and personal.

 

About a year ago, Aishat learned about a possible solution to the lack of readily available materials for her shoemaking business when YTF and Mastercard paired up to teach women entrepreneurs about 3D printers. The entrepreneurial training sessions featured 3D printing technology and a heavy dose of inspiration, sharing the many possibilities afforded through the technology.

Aishat was thrilled. “This 3D printer will allow me to print shoe soles and customize my shoes,” she shared. “It is a phenomenal experience that I am grateful to have been a part of. I hope to get the machine to ease the stress of importation on my business.”

Aishat nigerian female entrepreneur

Aishat holding up the #BeingBold sign for International Women’s Day in front of her store at the Adeniran Ogunsanya Shopping Mall.

Aishat holding up the #BeingBold sign for International Women’s Day in front of her store at the Adeniran Ogunsanya Shopping Mall.

We love when women empower women. Aishat takes this call to heart, sharing a message to empower each women entrepreneur she encounters.

“I stand to celebrate every woman out there who is a trailblazer and is making waves in whatever you do. I am Aishat, and I am standing bold for change, ready to make a difference and standing in for the unheard voices of hard-working women in business.”

From Struggling Entrepreneur to Mentor: Charity’s Story

Mobile-focused Charity at her shop Fanchi Global Resources, with her garments making a colorful backdrop.

Mobile-focused Charity at her shop Fanchi Global Resources, with her garments making a colorful backdrop.

Meet Mrs. Charity Esezobor. She is a female entrepreneur, a mother of four, and a mentor to young girls in her community in Nigeria. Charity started her custom-garment business Fanchi Global Resources in 2016.

She had previously worked in an insurance company and later in a micro-finance bank. Then one day, Charity came across a store with beautiful fabrics that sparked her love for garment-making. From that point on, she devoted her passion to making attractive and affordable fabrics.

Charity standing proud as a female entrepreneur.

Charity standing proud as a female entrepreneur.

The year Charity decided to start her business was rough for Nigeria with the economy dip. The recession affected local businesses and made it a struggle for Charity to purchase more machines that make her products faster and neater. She also had difficulty with financial management and needed a more sophisticated stoning machine – critical for her work to stamp a design or graphic on a piece of fabric.

Charity and her two female apprentices embellishing fabrics with beautiful beads.

Charity and her two female apprentices embellishing fabrics with beautiful beads.

YTF came into the picture when we teamed up with our long-standing partner, Mastercard, to provide financial management training and mentorship to entrepreneurs like Charity. She received the professional education necessary to save more, keep accurate financial records, and make practical decisions for her business. She now has a generator that supplies power when the electricity supply is out. Also, Charity researched sources for the best market that provides affordable prices and quality material so she can retain and satisfy her customers. Since receiving help from YTF and Mastercard, her customer base has increased by 30 percent.

Charity using her electric stoning machine to make a new yellow, decorated garment for her store.

Charity using her electric stoning machine to make a new yellow, decorated garment for her store.

We want to empower women like Charity to have continuous growth in their field as they become self-sufficient and financially able to provide for themselves and their families.

Charity decided to take the huge step forward of leaving her job and pursuing the desire to be self-employed and create employment opportunities for youth in her community. Now, Charity is a female entrepreneur who passes the torch on to the young women in her community who have an interest in garment-making. She is helping raise the next generation of women entrepreneurs, making Charity an incredible asset for her community’s sustainability.

The two apprentices Charity mentors and supports in the garment-making business

The two apprentices Charity mentors and supports in the garment-making business

We are proud to share her story, and applaud Charity for being bold for change and standing firm by overcoming the challenges that came her way!

Launching a Life Vision With Family Support and Tech Training

Emmanuel (left) with his father and younger sister.

Emmanuel (left) with his father and younger sister.

A supportive family often provides love and encouragement to help youth reach their dreams, but at some point a child must stand on their own. Many of our students at YTF are at this crossroads, wanting to step out and learn skills to help build their life.

Emmanuel (22) from Imo State, Nigeria, is one of those students. He is grateful for the encouragement to further his education, supported by his father, a technician, and his mother, a nurse, and his younger sister.  

The First Steps: Technology Training with YTF

In 2014, Emmanuel enrolled in YTF’s Digital Literacy and Project 3E Training (Education, Entrepreneurship, and Environment). He was a technology novice and his teachers noticed a need to develop an independent mindset.

YTF’s digital literacy training helps students like Emmanuel develop proficiency in Microsoft programs (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), Corel draw, page-maker, internet access, and more. Emmanuel’s second program, Project 3E, trains youth using education and entrepreneurship skills to solve environmental problems.

Emmanuel_2

 

As he dug into YTF’s training, Emmanuel learned to appreciate technology from teachers like IFeoma (pictured above).  

Emmanuel now believes that, with technology, things are being done faster and easier to achieve a better results.

“YTF has really brought joy to my life both academically and morally,” said Emmanuel. “After my enrollment in YTF, I became conversant with anything that has to do with ICT.”

YTF ultimately provided him with skills that have helped guide his steps and launch his life vision.

Launching a Vision: How YTF Inspires and Equips Future Leaders

Emmanuel was able to secure a job using the independent search skills he learned with YTF. He is currently working as a computer instructor in Learners’ Nursery and Primary School in New Owerri and in the media department of his church. In addition, during his term examinations, Emmanuel goes to the schools in his neighborhood, collects exam papers, and helps type and print them out.

Recently, Emmanuel received admission to study Education Economics at Alvan Ikoku College of Education.

This is all part of Emmanuel’s life vision, inspired by YTF’s Project 3E program. He hopes to become one of the best economists in Nigeria and Africa at large. YTF’s training has not only helped him set a ambitious vision, but also create a path to achieve it. After learning the benefits of being self-employed, he hopes to start his own business as soon as he graduates from university — a business funded by his current job.

Emmanuel_1

Emmanuel is no longer looking to his parents for any financial assistance. He is independent; providing for his needs in school on his own and even helping out his family. His parents are proud of his work and his potential.

This International Day of Families, we recognize the importance of family support. We know our role in providing education to develop sustainable lifestyles is only possible within a greater ecosystem, and students are often emboldened and successful when they have a supportive family. 

Want to help more people like Emmanuel surround themselves in a support system of technology training and business skills? Find opportunities with YTF.

Stepping it Up in STEM Education: Q&A with Peace  

In a brightly-lit room, a group of students engage in an interactive education with the computers provided by YTF in Owerri, Nigeria. For nine years and counting, current teacher Peace continues her story with our organization from student and participant in her first three years to an employee inside many other rooms in the last six years. This Girls in ICT Day, we want to share her story with a Q&A session geared specifically towards her experience as a Program Manager throughout Nigeria and empowering young girls to pursue their passion in science.

Peace, Program Coordinator in Nigeria

Peace, Program Coordinator in Nigeria

 

Tell me a bit about yourself.

I am a mentor to dozens of girls and young women with the focus of inspiring them as the next generation of innovators. I believe that we make a living by what we get and get a life by what we give. I love reading about new inventions, mentoring, and travelling. I have served in various capacities implementing STEM projects especially with the focus to foster girls’ interest in STEM. I have always loved technological inventions. Technology makes life easier and connects the world. We can see the relevance of technology in every aspect of human endeavors and how it has relieved people of so much tension and stress.

How did you hear about YTF?

I heard about YTF while I was in the university (Imo State University, Owerri) in 2007. YTF had trained my faculty (i.e. faculty of Engineering) on the use of computers. After that training, I enrolled in YTF’s Tech Teens program because it was very affordable, almost free compared to what other computer institutes charged. When I resumed my classes, I found that YTF was not just a computer institute, but a family that is there to nurture youths towards achieving their goals in life. I received not just computer skills but also life skills.

Peace at a training session in Nigeria

Peace at a training session in Nigeria

 

Describe your current position.

As Program Coordinator, I have planned/implemented various programs that have impacted thousands of lives of youth, girls, and women throughout Nigeria. I also liaise with schools in YTF communities to develop partnerships and train students/teachers on appropriate technology, and I provide training on life/leadership skills for youth enrolled in YTF Academy and women in YTF communities. I worked with rural women farmers in YTF’s Agric-P.O.W.E.R. program to educate them on best farming practicing and access to agricultural information using technology: 60% testified that their crops were yielding better.

I implemented YTF’s Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs and Mobile Value Added Services program. This program has equipped over 10,000 women entrepreneurs with the necessary financial, business, and technology skills/capabilities needed to excel in their business. The program includes planning, recruiting participants, training staff, and delivering training to women entrepreneurs. Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs program resulted in 40% increases in participant income after applying the principles they were taught—this actually made me very proud.
I’m actively involved in Girls in ICT Day program—connecting over 400 girls from 30+ secondary schools throughout Nigeria. The girls were connected to female STEM mentors to encouraged them to pursue STEM careers and participated in 3D printing.

What’s your philosophy in teaching technology?

Technology is an integral part of our lives and few can imagine living without it.  As technology continues to advance and direct even more easiness in our lives, it is imperative that we equip today’s youth with the necessary skills so that they can be employable.

Tell me about a difficult circumstance you handled. What action did you take? What were the results?

My role is to oversee the implementation of various gender-related programs. An unexpected obstacle occurred while implementing YTF’s She Will Connect program. We had already strategized with secondary schools and universities throughout Nigeria to meet the program’s goal of training 12,000 girls/women in basic ICT and entrepreneurship skills and had worked with them to implement the program. Then in the middle of the trainings, the universities went on strike and many students vacated—you can imagine the frustration. The program had a timeline so it was evident that if I didn’t do something about it, I would be in trouble. So I had to put on my thinking cap. I had to conceive another approach that would help us achieve our deliverables. Instead of universities, we partnered with faith-based organizations and community leaders to recruit participants. Fortunately, we were able to train the required number of clients with impressive results.

Who has most influenced you, and how did they influence you?

I have been influenced by so many people, but the two people that have most influenced me are my parents. My parents taught me to be diligent, courageous, and optimistic; and most importantly to put God first in everything I do. They are generous and always eager to help others, their love, care, and motivation has brought me where I am today. Another person that has influenced me is my boss. I am inspired and motivated by her leadership style, commitment, creative and innovative ideas. Her dedication to work has made very dedicated to my duties at Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF). Through her mentorship, I have been able to achieve a lot. She brings out the best in me.

What if a student/participant doesn’t “get it?” What do you do to help them understand?

If a student doesn’t get it in class, I arrange a private class for her where I will try to teach her at her pace and also use examples that she is familiar with.

Peace and Prince, a student of YTF Academy

Peace and Prince, a student of YTF Academy

 

 

What’s the difference in teaching ICT to the different age groups?

Each age group has a unique way of assimilation. It’s a lot easier for younger participants (8-30) to understand ICT than it is for the older participants (35-55). The youths are eager to learn, enthusiastic and do not have much distractions, while the older participants are occupied with family, work etc. It requires a lot of patience to teach them.

Which student/participant has most inspired you and why?

The student that most inspired me is Edward Rita. She is 19 years old and she is from Imo state, Nigeria. She loves drawing and designing and has always done them on paper until she enrolled in YTF Tech Teens program where she was taught how to appreciate technology and use it as a tool for change. Her light bulb moment was her ability to design on the computer and also emailing her design to her aunt. She felt very elated when her aunt showered her with praises. She loves designing and technological tools like the computer has made it more fun, easier, and interesting

With this ICT Girls Day, what’s your takeaway with the discussion happening in Empower Women?

Being part of the moderators on the e-discussion on science, technology, and innovation (STI) is a great opportunity to brainstorm with others on the future of STI. Let’s #stepitup by moving from teaching young girls STEM to taking young girls to STEM. Let them see real life application of science, technology, and innovation. It’s time to take a more proactive approach towards gender equality such as changing STEM education. Let’s step away from teaching STI to a more practical approach thereby creating an enabling environment for girls to see STI in action such as what YTF does on Girls in ICT day Celebrations.

Sparking a STEM Career During Spring Break: YTF’s 3D Printing Academy for Girls

Most girls in the U.S. report an interest in STEM fields, but only 24 percent of women currently in the workforce have a STEM job. Women are even less represented in engineering– only 15 percent of that field is female.

To help close that gap, we commit to empowering girls from an early age to continue developing their interests in STEM careers. We found one model to help take that interest and turn it into a tangible career path – 3D printing.

Earlier this month we opened the doors to our second 3D Printing Academy for Girls spring break camp at our U.S. headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky led by an all-female YTF staff.

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Our group of young engineers jumping for joy after showing off their experience to their close ones on family day.

Girls from the area, ages 11-14, were equipped with laptops that included TinkerCAD and Fusion 360 software, prepped to design and print objects on a Cubify or MakerBot 3D printer. Inspiration and training filled the curriculum, from documentaries on inventors to live product demos, with the promise of 3D printed jewelry by the end of the week.

Empowering STEMinist Messages

Technology companies and organizations filled each day with creative activities and speakers to educate and empower our participants.

Our speakers this year included:

  • Angelique Johnson, a University of Louisville assistant professor, shared her career path and her work in hearing aid device development.
  • Mary Beckman, community manager from FirstBuild, spoke about being an engineer. She partnered with Sarah Morris, a University of Louisville student in the Digital Manufacturing and Design Program.
  • Mary Fugier from McNeel’s Technical Support and Training division taught how to use the Rhinocerous 3D modeling software.
  • Jennifer Lea, lead electronics design engineer at GE Appliances, a Haier Company, demonstrating electrical engineering.
  • Erica Nwankwo, design education evangelist from Autodesk, demoed special 3D printing design features in Fusion 360.
  • Sydney Dahl, NPI project manager at MakerBot, shared her career path and explained her role in creating MakerBot printers.

These powerful women painted an image for our girls of what their future could look like as female engineers. 

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Dr. Angelique Johnson starting off the week of empowering messages from female engineers with an encouraging speech to all the young girls at the camp.

The first speaker of the week, Angelique Johnson, showed admiration for the group’s willingness to attend camps such as this one and supported their passion to pursue STEM-related fields. 

“I want to stay in management to help other women in tech like myself reach their goals,” said Dahl.

Following closely after, Mary Fugier presented a Rhino Tutorial and showed the students how to 3D design a lemon squeezer.

Tools of the Trade

The girls were introduced to 3D printing at the beginning of and reviewed throughout the week through videos on the printing process and materials to help support the training.

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Our teacher Lily working one-on-one with student Chloe.

Other core learning activities included:

  • A computer aided design (CAD) tool used to create models for 3D printing, called TinkerCAD, was introduced to begin making 3D objects. 
  • Another CAD tool, Rhino, where students typed in commands to create a collage of simple objects.
  • The OzoBlockly robot programming platform, with which students
  • Web programming introductions using Komodo IDE, FileZilla, and GoDaddy. 
  • Basic sketching and how to manipulate a special digital design surface called T-splines using Autodesk’s Fusion 360 CAD program. 
  • Two fun class projects with TinkerCAD: making coins and creating a “diamond” ring.

3D Printing as a Platform for Learning and Exploration

The girls were eager to learn, ask questions, readily participate in hands-on activities, and actively problem-solving. 3D printing is a unique activity, working equally well for group projects and individual work.

One girl, Pragya, expressed many of her ideas freely to the group and became an outstanding team manager during a game-building exercise. Another student, KeAris, enjoyed making 3D designs such as her own name and even printed a design with the name of her nana, Norma. The flexibility allowed students with a range of learning styles to stay involved in their work and flex their creativity.  

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From left to right, Jazmine, Kaema , and KeAris taking notes during a lesson.

The week-long academy concluded with a final review and a proud show-and-tell demonstration for Family Day.

We at YTF want to absolutely highlight our partners like:  University of Louisville, Society of Women Engineers, Best Buy, PPG Foundation, Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, GE Haier and our technology partners including 3D Systems, McNeel & Associates, MakerBot, Lexmark and Autodesk.

Now, we’re excited to announce the next 3D Printing Academy is open to serve more girls in Louisville this June. Stay tuned for more information and future events on the 3D Printing Academy website.

Boldly Boosting Entrepreneurs on International Women’s Day

women entrepreneur workshop Nigeria mastercard presenter

MasterCard’s Tayo Adesina speaking to the women entrepreneurs about customer service segmentation.

When we go bold, we go big. While you saw us tweeting away on International Women’s Day, what you didn’t see was an eager group of women entrepreneurs gathered in Lagos, Nigeria, ready to learn. Our team partnered with generous employees from technology-related companies to mark International Women’s Day as a truly actionable occasion.

While all women are celebrated every year on March 8, it is in YTF’s DNA to celebrate women entrepreneurs in particular – mothers of the thousands of youth we serve. This workshop encouraged our women entrepreneurs in Nigeria to be resilient in spite of the economic change and recession. Sticking with the global theme of International Women’s Day, we aimed to #BeBoldForChange, taking actions towards gender parity.

Formula for Fast-Track Entrepreneur Building

The first day of the workshop brought together women entrepreneurs alongside a group of Mastercard and HP employees, in addition to representatives from the Association of Nigerian Women Business Network (ANWBN), a network of women entrepreneurs invited by the Center for International and Private Enterprise (CIPE).

This four-hour training and knowledge sharing session included building an action wall. Participants brainstormed what they would do to achieve gender equality if they were put in charge of their country. Ideas ranged from giving free vocational training to disadvantaged girls to opening doors for a female president.

The keynote address was delivered by Alexa Lion and Oladipo Ogunshire from the Mastercard team. They introduced Mastercard and shared their vision for “a world beyond cash,” explaining Mastercard uses technology to make payments safe, simple and smart.

Mastercard employee hugging woman enterpreneur

Mastercard’s Alexa Lion giving one of the women entrepreneurs, Charity Esezobor, a hug at the beginning of the workshop as part of an icebreaker.

Sessions throughout the day included:

  • Some practical dos and don’ts in a recession, presented by YTF staff.
  • The impact of e-payment for women entrepreneurs, presented by Uwa Uzebu and Kamil Olufowobi of Mastercard. They educated the women entrepreneurs on what e-payment can do for them as a businesswoman, saying that it can save lots of time and inconvenience.
  • A hands-on training on how to write a business plan, presented by Casmir Anyaegbu with YTF. The women were markedly happy to receive such a practical guide.
  • A focus on empowering women in small and medium businesses, presented by Joyce Onumere and Ruth Owolabi from HP. They introduced HP LIFE – an online business and IT training platform – and encouraged the women to take advantage of the platform to gain education on relevant topics and boost their businesses.

 

Finally, the entrepreneurs were instructed in customer service segmentation to help relate to each customer appropriately and offered ideas on creating customer loyalty by offering discounts and deals.

HP employee instructing women entrepreneurs

Joyce Onwumere of HP speaking to the women entrepreneurs

 

Entrepreneurs in Action: Visiting Aeesha Collections

The next afternoon, the YTF team accompanied the Mastercard crew for a tour of one entrepreneur’s business – Aeesha Collections. Owner Aishat manufactures shoes and has participated in YTF’s Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs training in Lagos. She designs the shoes, puts them together using leather and rubber, and has a couple small machines to complete the product. Very few women in Nigeria do this type of work.

Woman entrepreneur shoemaker in Lagos, Nigeria

Aishat (left) giving a tour

The group met her seven employees – all male – at her workshop and spoke with Aishat about her business. After exploring her workshop, Aishat took the group to her showroom to show off some of her designs.

YTF introduced 3D printing to Aishat and has been working with her to explore the possibilities of 3D printing shoe soles and other materials of her shoes. The Mastercard team learned about this process from Aishat and considered ways in which working with YTF, they can advance this vision for Aishat and many other women entrepreneurs looking at ways to innovate within their product lines. 

Boldly Navigating the New Frontier

We believe Africa is the newest frontier for creating sustainable livelihoods through micro, small and medium enterprise development – especially for women at risk of vulnerable employment. That’s why our #BeBoldforChange idea for International Women’s Day was this event.

The opportunity to get Mastercard employees to donate their time and talent, diving in by touring a business of a woman entrepreneur we support and listening to her stories, challenges, and successes firsthand was the pivotal outcome of this two-day event. Forging connections between entrepreneurs and paths to success is a role we’re excited to play – whether that’s a piece of critical knowledge or a company willing to support small and medium business.

women entrepreneur hands

The Skills Gap Up Close and Personal: Chiamaka’s Story

Secondary school graduate Chiamaka worked happily in sales at a supermarket in Owerri, Nigeria until they adopted a cashless policy and she was forced to quit due to her lack of experience with electronics. Fast forward six months, and Chiamaka has now acquired all the skills necessary to tackle any technological endeavor. The tables have turned so much that she now works at a technologically-focused company as a secretary, beloved by her boss. What changed?

Chiamaka in the middle of her classmates at graduation.

Chiamaka in the middle of her classmates at graduation.

This 22-year-old worker with no idea how to use digital stock inventory systems or conduct point of sale transactions on the computer isn’t that much different than others her age. According to a 2014 study by PWC, 96 percent of CEOs in Africa (compared to a global average of 63 percent) are concerned about the lack of skills.  

“In Nigeria, too many graduates lack non-academic skills.” Dozie Okpalaobieri, Director, Quincy Advisory Limited

At least two-thirds of unemployed youth in Africa are between 15 and 24 years old. Chiamaka did not receive ICT (information and communications technology) skills training in high school. Even if she had, technology has continued to advance drastically. Once she left the job at the market, she decided to enroll in YTF’s six-month program.

Once she left the job at the market, Chiamaka decided to enroll in YTF’s six-month program.

A Rejuvenated Future with a New Job

Our teachers noted how Chiamaka’s motivation and fast learning led her to high confidence once she joined the program. We provided her with internet access, a computer, a digital camera and other learning materials like practical booklets.

Chiamaka then had the chance to practice her skills as a YTF Academy graduate intern for two months.

Chiamaka second from the right focused on working her new-found skills on the computer.

Chiamaka second from the right focused on working her new-found skills on the computer.

After completing the program, a company called “FOR HIM COMPUTER” hired her as a secretary. This position builds on what she learned in YTF’s program and helps her further develop her skills in a professional setting. Plus, Chiamaka receives a round-trip transportation stipend each time she comes to work.

Chiamaka clearly has a desire to keep learning, with plans to attend a university next school year.

A Higher Education Motivation, Boosted by YTF

Chiamaka keeps dreaming of what she can achieve with her newfound skills, now hoping to be a world-class nurse in the future. We are so proud to see a student like Chiamaka go through a complete turnaround – from technology novice to a girl who can leverage technology to reach new dreams. 

We know hope remains for many other students just like Chiamaka, who is one of more than 100 YTF Academy students who go above and beyond in their studies. It’s not a surprising path, considering 96 percent of YTF program graduates go on to higher education within two years of graduating.

We at YTF see stories like this every day, and we can’t help but share our favorites. Stay tuned for the next student’s transformation journey.