We are so grateful from the young ladies from Just Cause Uganda, who came all the way from Canada to train this great group of former homeless (“street”) girls in our Jinja, Uganda hackerspace.
Here’s their blog entry from the last week of robotics training, copied from their web site:
The girls from Mirembe Cottage for Street Girls have been meeting with us throughout the summer. Our intention was to teach them about robotics and provide an opportunity to build robots and learn the basics of programming similar to the boys group we have been meeting with. We quickly learned that this was going to be a challenge for several reasons.
First, there are 22 girls. This is a lot of people for the limited space and equipment that we have. Secondly, the girls’ level of education is varied with some of them only having attended school for a short period of time. Their computer exposure has been limited and our assumptions about their basic knowledge were inaccurate. Lastly, the girls do not all speak fluent English and we often realized that they could not understand the most basic of instructions that we were giving them. Despite all of these challenges we absolutely loved having these girls around. Their enthusiastic attitudes and joy that they all exude made them so much fun to teach!
Our workshops culminated in a “Google Hangout”, a live online video conferencing tool, with a group of female students in St. Thomas, ON earlier this week. These students are all a part of their school’s robotics team and were working on their own robot in Canada to share with the girls in Uganda at the same time. The excitement on both ends was contagious and both groups of students loved talking, sharing and learning with one another. We were able to walk around with the laptop and show the girls the variety of activities that our students were engaged in.
To address the challenges of such as big group we modified our instruction and broke the group up into smaller groups. Due to the lack of equipment we decided to focus on other fun STEM activities for the children to engage in. One of our activities was for them to build an air-powered balloon car. They were really creative in their approach (a lot of them wanted to focus on decorating their cars!) but several of them were quite tenacious in working to get their model just right and were successful in the end.
Simultaneously, we had another group of six girls who we had identified as having a natural ability with robotics building a Praying Mantis, “Manty”, from the NXT kit. This was quite complicated compared to anything they had been exposed to all summer and they were able to demonstrate their understanding by getting it all put together!
The last group was working with Katie and the EV3 kit. They built the car they had previously worked with and used a light sensor to allow them to program the robot to follow a line. The girls made their own track and had to troubleshoot and adjust their program so that it could accommodate different curves and turns in their course. They found it really challenging at first but were able to eventually figure it out and have their robot follow the course!
As a celebration and an end to a great summer with this group we presented them with the shoulder bags made by the fashion class at St. Joe’s in St. Thomas, ON. Each of the girls received her own bag and was able to personalize it by painting their own name and design on it. These were a huge hit and the smiles on the girls faces showed just how happy they were to have something to call their own. Thank you to all of our students in Canada who worked hard to provide these awesome gifts for a great group of girls in Uganda!