EdTech Ecosystem Activities: The Young Engineers Pan-African Stem Competition

EdTech Ecosystem Activities: The Young Engineers Pan-African Stem Competition

By Evans Ongwae.

If you were not at the Braeburn School in Nairobi on November 14, 2023, you missed a memorable spectacle. Groups of animated young engineers and scientists were at work, showcasing their innovative ideas to judges, their peers, mentors, and relatives.

Lincoln Mwangi, a parent of two children who participated in the event, expressed his pleasure at what he had experienced. Another parent, who prefers to be called ‘Sunny’, said she was eager to hear from her young son, a pupil at Rosslyn Academy Nairobi, about his experience in the competition.

Had you managed to attend the event, you would have seen the youngsters scramble to assemble their engineering projects on Lego boards. You would have watched them race to complete assembling their projects ahead of their peers in the fierce competition for the top honours. Teamwork and innovation were on full display too.

The best was yet to come, as the competitors waited anxiously for the winners to be announced.

The time arrived. The audience seated inside the Braeburn Theatre was treated to some memorable moments.

It was all about the young participants’ range of emotions and behaviour when called up to the podium to receive their awards.

Some raced up the stairs when their names were called out. Others performed jigs of happiness on stage as they waited to be handed their awards. Yet others walked majestically to accept their awards and posed stylishly for the photoshoot. Each time, loud applause escorted the winners—and all recipients of certificates—to the podium. However, the whistles and screams when some winners were announced were simply deafening. The frenzied jubilation had some members of the audience chuckling in amusement. The joy of some of the winners, their parents, and relatives was unbridled. It was a sight worth watching.

All these actions showed how much the young engineers and scientists appreciated participating in the competition and how much they loved the awards they received.

The occasion was the 1st Young Engineers Pan Africa STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) competition in 2023.

The competition produced many winners—not just the ones who emerged first or second in their respective categories. Team Tanzania, comprising learners from different schools, scooped the overall winners’ trophy.

The competition’s head judge, Seth Odongo, explained that the winning team displayed excellent teamwork, had the best presentation, and delivered the most innovative project.

He emphasised that the winning project must have been in line with the competition’s theme, ‘zero hunger’, in support of one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Under the category of learners below five years old, Peponi School’s juniors won the award for Best Presentation, pipping Banda School. Braeside took the award for Best Teamwork, ahead of the Academy of Dance and Art juniors. The Children’s House ended with the Best Innovation award, with Peponi School emerging as the first runner-up.

In the senior category of the competition, various schools won awards. Team Tanzania won the Best Presentation award. Africa International finished as the first runner-up. The teamwork produced a tie, with Brookhouse Karen and Nova Pioneer sharing the top honours, ahead of Braeside. Peponi won the Best Innovation award, with Abacus Senior placing second.

Mr. Mwangi, whose children, aged four and six, participated in the competition, said it was commendable to catch them young. “It is good to start challenging them when they are still young,” he explained, adding that his sons were excited about the competition.

He said: “My youngest son likes creating stuff and found the competition fun.”

Abacus, the school his sons attend, has an engineering club where young learners get to innovate.

Mr. Mwangi said he didn’t know about the competition until he saw a flyer. “I think this is a good idea,” he said while watching his sons join other competitors for a deserved snack break after the competition had ended.

Co-operative Bank’s Ms. Wanjiku Kabiru, who was among the guests who presented certificates to the participants, echoed Mr. Mwangi’s sentiments. 

She said: “It is a good idea to bring the aspiring scientists and engineers here and keep them busy this way.”

Ms. Kabiru suggested that the competition should be replicated because, in the end, “all participating children are winners.”

More than 20 school teams participated in the competition, which also attracted participants from Uganda.

Kenya Space Agency’s acting director of space and technology development, Mr. Charles Mwangi, was among the guests at the event. Also in attendance were the head of Young Engineers Uganda, Ms. Maureen Karamagi, and her Tanzanian counterpart, Ms. Benazir Kurji.

Others included tech firm Peak & Dale Solutions Limited’s strategy lead, Mr. Victor Abuor. Young Scientists’ Ag national director, Ms. Carina Too, was also present, as was EdTech East Africa’s Collective Action Lead, Joan Mwachi.

The head of Young Engineers Kenya, Ms. Faith Gathungu, says the next competition will be held in another African country next November. The host country will be announced soon.

She says all schools should participate in the competition to encourage their learners to become friends with STEM.

Ms. Gathungu adds that this is an opportunity to learn how to relate to STEM subjects from other countries. The competition also increases awareness of the importance of critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and creativity.

She asserts that STEM matters in Africa because “it will prepare our future generations for the jobs of the future that are yet to be created, thereby increasing our competitive edge globally.”

Ms. Gathungu thanks the sponsors, who included Young Scientists Kenya and the Institution of Engineers of Kenya (IEK), who both provided judges for the event: Kenya Space Agency, Unga Ltd., Peak & Dale, Cooperative Bank, and the Braeburn Group of Schools. She also appreciates all the schools and the learners who participated in the contest.

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