The following is a blog entry written by Duke University student Jenna Peters:
If you have ever gone school supply shopping for an advanced math class, you probably know just how expensive new calculators can be. Having to buy that new calculator can put a lot more stress on students and parents during the already overwhelming back-to-school period.
It’s not too different at the WISER school, a secondary school and empowerment program for girls in Muhuru Bay, Kenya. As the WISER girls defy expectations and race to higher levels in math and physics, they need more advanced calculators. These scientific calculators can cost $15-20, which is a huge expense in a community where many families earn less than $1 per day. Because of this high cost, students would become angry and frustrated when their calculators would break. The students pictured below are working to change that.
Winnie and Zipporah are WISER students who were founding members of the Engineering Club in 2014. With two engineering students from Duke University, they learned engineering skills and concepts by building rechargeable flashlights: valuable study tools in an area without electricity. In the seven-week course, students explored circuits, soldering, casing, and many related physics and math concepts. The club is now in its third year.
At WISER, part of my job was to assess the impact of the engineering club on STEM entrepreneurship. To my delight, I found that Winnie and Zipporah were taking what they learned to new levels by using their new knowledge to repair broken calculators. The girls say that designing and building flashlights in the Engineering Club gave them the confidence to take the broken calculators apart instead of just giving them to their physics teacher. They also used the skills and tools from the Engineering Club to diagnose and fix other problems. For example, Winnie and Zipporah have used a multimeter to test calculator batteries, and others have used soldering irons to repair broken electrical connections.
Winnie and Zipporah are yet another example of the WISER students’ boundless drive to apply their knowledge in a way that serves others. We are excited to see what other ways they discover to put their engineering skills to use in their community.