ASEI signed an MoU with the University College London International Development Hub, a subsidiary of UCL Faculty of Engineering on January 24, 2022. The collaboration will in the first-year focus on joint research and design efforts to progress ASEI’s Drinking Water Project.
ASEI will work with UCL to design and implement a strategy aimed at increasing uptake of treated drinking water using UV-C technology. ASEI design focuses on the use of solar energy to power UV-C reactors which emit ultraviolet radiation in the C-range with the ability to kill disease causing micro-organisms to a rate 99.99%. The works will be supported by consultancy with the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technologies (CAWST).
“We are really excited that our students have been given the opportunity to work with the team at ASEI on the upcoming WaSH Education and Access project this summer. This opportunity to develop their skillset and participate in knowledge exchange in a new, meaningful context, will be remarkable for our students’ professional learning and future prospects.
At the UCL International Development Hub, we hope that by supporting such a great initiative, we can encourage the practice of a collaborative approach to addressing real-world challenges and continue to champion community-led development.” – Mala Mohindru, UCL ID_Hub Manager
The project collaboration contributes to the broader aim of strengthening the industry and academia links between ASEI and UCL Engineering.
ASEI team set out to construct and disseminate solar powered cookers as part of a global learning community of collaborators that seeks to extend access to affordable clean energy cooking technologies such as the ISEC in local communities hence contributing to achievement of SDG (Sustainable development goal) 7. The ISECs (insulated solar electric cookers) were constructed with 99% of the materials sourced locally in Uganda.
The pilot was carried out in households in four villages Booma, Kitumba, Njara, Mukubo in the west, central, west and southern divisions respectively of Fort Portal city in the Rwenzori region (Western Uganda). The city lies between 0°39’16.0″N, 30°16’28.0″E (Latitude:0.654444; Longitude:30.274444) and is situated at an average elevation of 1,523 meters (4,997 ft) above sea level.
A feedback survey done during the pilot phase showed that 100% of the users expressed interest in purchasing the ISEC (Insulated Solar Electric Cooker) and 75% agreed that using the ISEC to cook is better than other cooking options such as using charcoal and mud stove while 100% agreed it is better than using a 3 stone stove. The reasons generally were due to the ISEC being clean compared to using biomass sources (firewood, charcoal) with no gas emissions, relatively good cooking time, less monitoring needed during the cooking and no costs of fuel. During the pilot phase different foods cooked with the solar powered cookers included beans, sweet potatoes, matooke (bananas), water, eggs, rice, greens (vegetables) and boiling water, the minimum power rating used to cook was 200Watts.
“I did not realize you could cook a meal using a cooker that relies entiely on solar energy” – Kyalingoza Paul ( ISEC User – Physics teacher).
ISECs can accelerate the transition to an affordable, reliable and sustainable energy system in cooking and set a trend for other technologies in the cooking sector to completely switch to clean renewable energy / fuel sources such as solar hence ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. ASEI team is currently looking at ramping up ISEC production with a target of disseminating ISECs to the vast majority of the Rwenzori region and other parts of the country.
On 10th December 2021, ASEI completed installation and hand over of solar powered UV-C water disinfection units at Kyegegwa hospital and Hapuuyo health centre III in Kyegegwa district with support from SD Strategies Australia.
The units installed at both health facilities have the capacity to supply safe drinking water to over 200 patients daily. Special thanks to Sonja Duncan and Richard Birdsey and the staff at ASEI including the board of directors for making this possible.
People go to health facilities to seek medical assistance and treatment yet hundreds of millions of people face an increased risk of infection by seeking care in health facilities that lack some of the basic necessities, including water, sanitation, hygiene (WASH) and health care waste services.
The installed units at the facilities will contribute to reduction of risks of infection from drinking untreated water. Below are some of the sites where installation was done.
The first unit was installed at Kyegegwa hospital maternity ward in Kyegegwa district which has been upgraded to the status of a general hospital to meet the health needs of the growing population in the district and its environs.
The units will ensure mothers have access to safe clean drinking water at the ward. The units were officially handed over to the incharge of Kyegegwa hospital Dr Martin by the ASEI programs director Alicwamu Moses.
The Incharge Dr Martin shared some insightful words with us!
Hapuuyo health centre III
The second unit was installed at Hapuuyo health centre III located in Kyegegwa district, the units will ensure on time oral administration of directly observed treatment (DOT) drugs to patients in the health centres. The unit was officially handed over to the in-charge Dr William at Hapuuyo health centre III.
We had an interview with Dr William and he had this to say.
We will continue to carryout periodic monitoring visits to the health centres where the units were installed and also provide more technically assistance were needed.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has proven invaluable since our ancient and now in our modern societies. The concepts have evolved and particularly advanced over time with the different explorations and revolutionaries that have happened by the incredible works of creative and innovative global heroes. What has stood out as the bare truth is that, the more the concepts have evolved and advanced, the more impactful and relevant they have become to our daily lives.
In the Global north, clear evidences exist to elaborate how STEM has been well learned and applied to create overwhelming impact on daily lives of their societies. The advancements in health, agriculture, urbanisation, transport, security, communication, technology, trade and commerce, to name but a few sectors have all resulted from persistent advancement in STEM and its influences.
On the contrary, the Global south presents quite a different testimony as its has not yet fully exploited the opportunities that are associated with STEM advancement and applicability. Still, the enrollment to STEM subjects is still low in schools with females enrolling at a significantly lower rate than males. And the practibality of the STEM concepts similarly still remains low in the learning process at the schools. Hugely though, various curricula have yet to embrace computer literacy as part of the subjects being skilled to learners.
Further more, the world of work in the Global south continues to evolve with digital technology as entrepreneurs seeks to achieve accuracy, consistency and effeciency in their business operations. This immediately necessitates that skilling instititutions should equally adapt to the world of work skill set requirements while training their academicians. But unfortunately, this divide stills exists as the world of work and the skilling institutions have yet to operate in a perfect sync.
It is therefore important that efforts should be constantly made to bridge the gap through dialogues, innovations and other different engagements that are geared towards ensuring that learners, skilling insititutions and the industry are all operating in a perfect sync. This has huge potential to tackling the persistent outcry of youth unemploymet as the labour supply can significantly coincide with the labour demand requirements.
African STEM Education Initiative founded and operating on the principals of providing a holistic transformation of young people and disadvantaged communities through STEM projects considers it necessary to contribute towards bridging of this gap and to that effect, it has partnered with Enactus UNSW to organize a virtual STEM careers day.
Virtual STEM Careers Day
The STEM careers day will be a day in which ASEI in partnership with Enactus UNSW features academicians, industry partners, and policy makers to engage with local students in Fort-Portal and Uganda in a variety of activities aimed at increasing participation and employment readiness within science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The careers day will help students understand and connect what they are learning in school with what is happening at the workplace as elaborated by current practioners. They will listen to speakers and navigate the event independently seeking information about the industry and the career options it provides. They will also learn about the education required for entry into the specific industries within STEM.
Objectives of the Event
To inform career planning among students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by connecting them to industry experts and senior students from higher institutions of learning.
To help students use entrepreneurship to create jobs within specific STEM subjects.
To use the platform to invite students, schools, parents and local organizations to participate in the CODE Program and other ASEI initiatives.
To network and share industry experience through mentors and a possible virtual trip to industry.
Activities of the day
Career guidance from Industry representatives
Lessons from Higher Education students
Project exhibitions and experience sharing from CODE program students
Career visits/trip if possible.
Q&A session between participants and industry representatives.
On 8th October ASEI in partnership with Enactus UNSW held the virtual STEM careers day with a theme “Elaborating the relevance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in the world of work”
The event activities include career guidance from Industry representatives, lessons from Higher Education students, project exhibitions, experience sharing from CODE program students, Q&A session between participants and industry representatives.
The event was graced by our experienced panel of speakers including;
We received a diverse audience of academicians, students, industry and policy makers from continents such as Africa and Australia. Some of the students in attendance were from various insitutions such as UNSW australia, Gulu university, Fort portal secondary school, Kyebambe girls secondary school, Makerere university and Kyambogo university.
Key note speaker highlight
“No one is born a scientist, technologist or engineer, but you can become one if you are curious, persistent, a team player and resilient. To achieve innovation, there should be human desire, technical feasibility and business viability” – Prof. Mary Anne Williams.
Some of the feedback from the audience included;
“It was great hearing Williams’ experience in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and how curiosity and desire has led her to a successful career in that regard.”
“As an educator, i have always been passionate on attracting students towards STEM fields, thanks Selena for the experience” – Deborah Manyiraho
“Thanks to the engineering team, it was really great in the engineering breakout room” – Gulu Ramathan
“Thanks to Mr. Lumaama for the great insights in the IT field” – Caleb Mutai
Highlights of ASEI Team’s Official Visit to Fort Portal S.S.
Andrew, Moses and Davis officially visited Fort-Portal secondary school to explain in great detail the proposed CODE program to the school top administration. After the official meeting, the team was offered an undeniable opportunity to talk to students at the school general assembly about the Program.
In their short presentation, Moses enlightened about the general concepts to be tackled in the CODE Program and clearly emphasized on how the program will be highly flexible depending on the prevailing situations and the interests of the participating students. He further explained on how important the CODE program is to the students of their generation given the technological advancements in the societies they look forward to flourish in. The program among other merits gives students the opportunity to interact actively with computers, learn mysterious logics behind different technological innovations and systems and also equip students with basic computer programing skills which are necessary while introduced at such an early stage of their life to enable them evoke their intuition towards further discoveries and implementations.
Andrew similarly illustrated the operation of “Woody” a locally designed collision detection robot to the students. He explained on how Woody’s design delivers inspiration from the concept of collision detection technology in smart cars which has been implemented necessarily to prevent accidents. The students were clearly amazed with it and according to the few students that the team managed to interact with after the assembly, there was a great expression of interest as these students want to learn and probably exploit these technologies in different aspects of life. In fact one student after inquiring about the program said:
This robot is really nice. I would also dream of making some thing like this and even more. I really like the program and once it starts, I surely will be part of it.
S.3 Student Fort-Portal S.S.
The team and the school administration look further to work together to see how best the program can kickstart at the school when students report back from their short holidays.
African STEM Education Initiative (ASEI) is a newly formed initiative located in Fort Portal City, Uganda. Its mission is to substantially uplift STEM education, youth entrepreneurship, and local technological innovation in Uganda and Africa.
ASEI plans to offer a maker-space and education and skills development opportunities. It will provide local youth and communities with exposure to life changing technologies and innovations that have the potential to transform the communities, with the goal of supporting the holistic transformation of youth and disadvantaged communities.
How was it formed?
The genesis of ASEI began in a conversation between Co-founders Alicwamu Moses and Mayanja Andrew in October 2019, when the pair were still studying at university. They identified a gap – despite the high technological innovativeness of Ugandans and Africans, there was need for a platform and an environment to nurture, support, incubate and scale innovation to create tangible social impact. This idea resonated with other fellow students Sentamu David Davis, Omurunginoha Crevan and Abenaitwe Docus. Since graduating the team have come together, in collaboration with a number of advisors and supporters, to create ASEI as a dedicated non-profit organization.
Why is support for technological innovation needed in Uganda right now?
The youth unemployment rate in Uganda is extremely high – between 64 – 70%. One of the challenges young people face is that even as graduates of higher education institutions, they do not necessarily possess the skills that are required by modern industries. Currently STEM education in Uganda is more theoretical than practical, and enrolment in STEM programs at across all universities sits under 25%. Globally, innovation capacity in Uganda is also viewed as being quite low, with the country ranked 106th in the Global Innovation Index (GII, 2013). These factors have constrained local capacity in manufacturing, health, agro-processing and energy.
Within this context, we have established ASEI to bridge the gap between the government, academia, the private sector, humanitarian organisations and local communities.ASEI will provide a link through skilling potential employers and employees and also implementing collaborative projects with innovative solutions.
The challenge of expanding access to high quality, relevant STEM education today is unprecedented, but if investments are made now, STEM education has transformational potential. We believe now is the time to rethink what skills young people require and to intentionally design an approach with those skills in mind. Recently we have developed the ASEI CODE program to teach basic systems-building computer science skills to students in secondary schools.We are working with schools initially, because they are the start of any career, and it is important to foster interest in STEM at an early age.
What are ASEI’s goals for the future?
We know that digitization, automation and technological advances are changing the nature of work globally, including Africa. Equipping youth with those skills will help drive productivity gains in both the formal and informal sectors, improving livelihoods and potentially spurring productivity and economic transformation. Provision of relevant skills through secondary education is crucial in order to ensure young Africans are well equipped to take advantage of new opportunities in an increasingly digital, automated and connected world. Furthermore, this approach is central to achieving the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (the Sustainable Development Goals).
Eventually, ASEI hopes to refine and uplift STEM education in Uganda, and across Africa. In the nearer term, some of ASEI’s specific objectives include:
To enhance the innovation capacity through provision of equipment and space to experiment.
To acquaint the youth with current employable skills through practical exposure to using lab equipment.
To improve and widen the scope of STEM education in Uganda through more engaging, project-based learning.
To promote and fine-tune locally developed technologies so as to penetrate local and international markets.
What has been achieved and what are the next steps?
ASEI was officially registered and incorporated by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) in late 2020. The organisation has also been officially introduced to key local stakeholders – for example the local administrative district leaders; a Member of Parliament and District Education Officer, as well as the Director of King Solomon’s College, one of the local schools from which we intend to deliver ASEI’s CODE program.
We have already had some early successes – the Member of Parliament for Fort Portal City has pledged to support ASEI on future projects that can be funded through government. He has since connected ASEI to a local NGO Kabarole Research and Resource Centre (KRC) of which he is a founder. Several engagements between ASEI and KRC are ongoing. Additionally, King Solomon’s College – Kyatega pledged to partner with ASEI for the CODE program to be implemented in the school.
Next steps include piloting the CODE program in April 2021 in three schools in Fort Portal. We are also currently negotiating local partnerships and collaborations, conducting internal staff and instructor training, and developing ASEI systems and policies.
Of course, there have also been challenges, including financial constraints and limited access to resources and equipment. Covid-19 has meant higher costs of living and has delayed school openings, all affecting the CODE program commencement.
What is ASEI’s connection to UNSW?
Our first connection with UNSW was in 2018, when some of the ASEI Co-founders visited UNSW on a study tour. We have since met with several UNSW students and staff to discuss ASEI, including the President and Vice Chancellor, Professor Ian Jacobs, Emeritus Associate Professor Julian Cox (who led the study tour in 2018), Selena Griffith, former Senior Lecturer and current member of the ASEI Board, as well as others in the Institute for Global Development and the Faculty of Engineering.
We are in contact with the UNSW ENACTUS chapter through their current President and Vice President, Samantha Yun and Helen Park. We are delighted that ENACTUS are currently running a crowd funding campaign to support ASEI’s CODE program.
How can students, industry partners and the UNSW community engage with and support ASEI?
There are many different ways people and organisations can support ASEI! Some of these include:
Training & Mentorship: Offering training opportunities for internal capacity development, training and mentorship of ASEI staff.
Donations & Networks: Establishment and facilitation in the setup of the Innovation lab/makerspace through donation of equipment (machines, tools, laptops).
Grant Information: Sharing upcoming grant submission opportunities and/or partnering with us on grant submissions.
Technology & research collaborations: Availing already developed technologies/prototypes for implementation and pilot studies by ASEI in Uganda, offering expertise and help on possible innovations to be implemented in the context of Uganda and the developing world, providing support or partnering on key innovative, industry-aligned projects (such as green communities, agriculture and the CODE program),
Student collaborations: Students might be interested to engage in collaborative research with ASEI during their course or final year projects, and possibly at some point to visit ASEI to get hands on experience.
We would love to hear from people interested in any of these areas. We can best be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org