Monday, August 19, 2013

Camp #TechKobwa by Liz S.

 Liz S. 
Karongi District, Western Provinch

A couple weeks ago, I had the great pleasure in working at Camp TechKobwa, a camp designed to encourage girls to pursue interests in science and technology. The camp was the brain child of Ed3 volunteer, Lyla Fujiwara, but around 15 volunteers from around Rwanda contributed to the camp in some way. It was hosted at Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology in Bugesera District in the Eastern Province. 48 girls attended from 7 different schools, representing all 5 provinces and over 10 districts.

Zach and Joselyn oversee the lesson teaching Email and Internet security 

The girls studied a range of subjects including computer basics, touch typing, email, internet and computer security, basic programming, circuits, excel, blogging, and photography. With the school's two computer labs, each girl could use her own computer - a first for many. With Rwanda's large class sizes, if a school has a computer lab, students often must share one computer between 2-4 students.

Elisabeth and Judi help students learn programming using Scratch
Each volunteer brought along an ICT teacher from his or her school. These teacher's were able to learn all the lessons during the Training of Trainers over the weekend preceding the camp and in turn helped their students master the lessons during the week. With their help, students can return to their schools and work with their ICT teacher to start a computer or media club to share what they've learned with other students. Additionally, with Peace Corps Volunteers, ICT teachers, and various Tech Experts that were invited to teach the lessons, the student to teacher ratio was often 3:1 or 4:1. Students received one on one attention to help them understand new concepts and master new skills on the computer.  

Two students engineers build their Quake Machine using LittleBits

Girls didn't just learn skills on the computer. They explored other aspects of science and technology as well. LittleBits, a company that makes a kind of electronic legos, donated several kits to the camp for the girls to use. Different pieces represent different parts of a circuit (battery, wire, dimmer, motor). Girls connected the pieces to create their own little machines. They then used the machines to run experiments and record data they then used to make a graph in excel. In a photography lesson, students got to play around with digital cameras. They learned about shutter speed and made their own "light painting" photo where they drew out the word of something they wanted to be in the future. Answers included (but certainly not limited to) journalist, doctor, nurse, singer and famous.

The first of two career panels. This one focused on women in the media.
 Throughout the week, the girls were supported not only by PCVs and their teachers, but also a number of Tech Experts and guest speakers. They learned how to create a gmail account from a man who worked for Google. They learned programming from a software designer and excel from a data analyst, both women working at Partners in Health. Our Public Relations Liaison, Akaliza Keza Gara, pictured above on the far right, (blogger, founded her own company, and works with female technology entrepreneurs across Rwanda) not only taught lessons but also served as Dorm Mama. She helped to find women entrepreneurs o serve as guest speakers. These women were writers, filmmakers, scientists, software developers, and many other things on the side. They provided insight, advice, and words of encouragement for girls as they pursue their own dreams.

A team of girls cheer on their teammate during the Field Day competition

 Girls had a lot of fun, too, in and outside of lessons. Everyday the girls could participate in different sports from basketball to frisbee. They played computer games and made paper machee piggy banks. They watched movies and did a lot of dancing. On the last day, there was a camp-wide competition between the 6 different groups. Through these activities, girls were encouraged to be LOUD - something Rwandan girls often struggle to do. We hope the girls not only learned about computers and technology, but also were empowered to speak out more in class, to participate more in their own learning, and not be afraid to have fun.
Volunteer Lauren stands with her students from T.T.C. Muramba proudly displaying their certificates
The camp was an amazing experience to be a part of and is one of the highlights of my service thus far. The girls seemed really excited and engaged, and you could see real pride in them by the end of the week. We hope many will continue to use what they learned back at their schools by starting clubs and encouraging the administration to promote the use of technology in their schools, especially for girls. And most importantly, we hope they had fun and feel proud of themselves and their accomplishments. They're an incredible bunch of girls!!

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