Thursday, 25 February 2016

STEM - Introduction

I am Phyllis Nassuna Ntananga, a 22 old final year student of the Bachelor of Information Technology program at Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Mbarara. I have a keen interest in Computer Software Programming as well as an equally strong enthusiasm for Engineering and Robotics. For the bigger part of my time at this university, I have participated in several local and global computer technology-themed innovation challenges and competitions. I have as well as volunteered in as many ICT focused initiatives
More recently, I took part as a trainer in the Africa Code Week, a program organized by Google that was aimed at introducing primary school children to computer programming using a software called Scratch by volunteering students and ICT professionals. Personally, I discovered that this was a great experience for the school children at the two the schools we went to. These children showed so much excitement when we introduced the program that at the end of each 1-2 hour sessions, some of them would ask if they could get Scratch on their parents’ computers to continue developing these programs. Others asked if they would still access the software after we had left. I remember one particular pupil asking me if she can call me over the holidays to and go teach her from her home. This touched me so deeply and I thought of what would happen to all this inspiration, the excitement of discovering and learning more if these children never saw us again or if they didn’t get anyone to teach or take them through this program again.
In the same period, I got a chance to be one of the trainers at the Gulu Robotics Camp, organized by Oysters and Pearls Uganda to educate children in primary and secondary schools from different parts of Uganda about Computer Technology and Robotics in particular. With the children at the camp also asking me the same questions as the ones I had gone to teach in the first two schools, I decided to come up with an own program of teaching computer programming to school children in at least five schools, with colleagues that I had worked with in the very first events.
We volunteer to teach computer programming to school children in classes Primary Three to Primary Seven, using a platform called Scratch which is easy for the children to learn and has a lot of abilities that the learners can use to do several programs. We also plan to teach girl students in secondary schools so as to counter the gender imbalance in technology and encourage more female participation in STEM.
Scratch as a platform has very many features good for the school going children such as; maths, controls and animations among others that they will use to help improve their understanding of some concepts in class. We also have hardware with Scratch that we shall introduce the children. This hardware has features like light, sound, value variance and resistors that are fundamental in the field of Electronics.
We plan to make this program bigger and more impactful in our drive to change the nation through these young but brilliant minds by introducing them to Technology and Engineering. For the start, we have few equipment which we shall use to teach with. We hope to get voluntary support from the schools and other organizations to see that we get more equipment to use as the number of the students increases.

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