3 October 2023 — UNESCO, in collaboration with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, concluded a four-day Robotics, Programming, 3D Printing, and Artificial Intelligence Training Boot Camp as part of the 9th UNESCO Africa Engineering Week and 7th Africa Engineering Conference. The event, held recently, at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria, South Africa, saw enthusiastic participation from students of J Kekana High School, in Pretoria.
Rovani Sigamoney, UNESCO Education Programme Specialist and a chemical engineer, highlighted the imperative behind this initiative: “We started the robotic STEM boot camp because we realised that we don’t have enough young people coming into the pipeline and we need to excite learners about subjects like maths, physics, and chemistry from a young age. It’s not just a challenge in Africa or South Africa. It’s a global problem. We are working towards stimulating and empowering youth, particularly young girls, in STEM worldwide.” According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021, there are only 13% of women in STEM related professions in South Africa and only 7% accounted for in the engineering industry.
Through engaging sessions in 3D printing, robotics, coding, and AI, the learners gained hands-on experience and learned about the potential careers in these cutting-edge fields. The boot camp, which forms part of UNESCO’s broader effort in ‘Reimagining STEM education for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, equipped STEM instructors and students with innovative instructional strategies, emphasizing hands-on experiences, creative problem-solving and business skills. “”The students were required to form four groups and tasked with devising company names while leveraging their entrepreneurial skills to develop robust business strategies for their respective companies as well,” Sigamoney explained.
Throughout the four days, from 25-28 September, the programme featured a line-up of STEM role models and successful women engineers, including the ECSA’s Dr. Bridget Ssamula, who shared their journeys and motivated the students to pursue careers in these fields.
“This personal interaction left a profound impact, evident in the enthusiastic response from the students who expressed a newfound interest in science and engineering,” Sigamoney explained.
The event also included the distribution of UNESCO micro-science kits, designed to make science education more accessible and engaging for students. These kits provide practical experiences in robotics and 3D printing, empowering young learners to explore these technologies first hand.
About Africa Engineering Week
Themed “Celebrating Engineering Excellence in the African Region,” – the 9th UNESCO Africa Engineering Week (AEW) 2023 and the 7th Africa Engineering Conference from the 25- 28 September 2023, is an extraordinary gathering that celebrates and fosters engineering excellence in the African region. This groundbreaking event is more than just a conference; it seeks to inspire and educate the youth and the public about the awe-inspiring world of engineering and will showcase how engineers are the ultimate problem solvers and crucial players in addressing our continent’s most pressing challenges. This annual event, proudly hosted by the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) in 2023, gains its strength from the collaborative efforts of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO); and the Federation of African Engineering Organisations (FAEO).
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Public Relations Officer | Engineering Council of South Africa