HacKIDemia and SparkFun help launch maker hubs in Africa

Last June, I went to the Interaction Design and Children Conference (IDC) in New York, NY and met Stefania Druga, one of the founders of the HacKIDemia project. HacKidemia is a global organization that runs hands-on STEAM workshops for kids in more than 25 countries around the world with 8000 children and 400 mentors, so when they were asked to bring the project to Africa, it was a no-brainer for SparkFun to try to help.

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Girls taking water samples as part of a HacKIDemia workshop

HacKIDemia called the project ‘Afrimakers’ and launched an indiegogo campaign two months ago (time’s almost up to support, so hurry up!). The main intention is to enable African makers – kids in particular – to use making and prototyping as a way to solve local challenges like access to clean water, energy, and information.

A previous workshop HacKIDemia ran in Nigeria

During January and February, 7 teams of makers in Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana will be trained and coached to solve local challenges with prototyping and young people. The local makers will receive fellowships through HacKIDemia and will train other hubs in the region. All of the local projects will be documented and shared (check here for updates).

SparkFun donated the materials for 7 maker boxes – one for each team – to support the initial campaign goal of equipping each of the 7 hubs with the tools they need to start running workshops. The maker boxes include RedBoards, LilyPad Development Boards (plus conductive thread and copper tape), Raspberry Pi, MaKey MaKeys, a bunch of sensors, and even several books to use as reference materials and for project ideas. You can see the full kit here.

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A sampling of some of the items in each box

The project will launch in Egypt this Thursday where a team of 30 mentors will prototype solutions for measuring air pollution and creating air purifiers (how cool is that!?).

The project aims to have a strong element of not only enabling kids to re-imagine their present circumstances, but also their future. Accordingly, HacKIDemia has launched a sub-project called “Imagine the Future” as a part of the initiative.

Imagine the Future involves a workshop where children will build imaginary objects; objects from possible futures that they will physically make. Science fiction authors will then write stories about the objects, with the aim of compiling the results in an e-book anthology.

A number of science fiction writers have agreed to be part of this project: Alastair Reynolds, Hannu Rajaniemi, Ramez Naam, David Levine and many others. The stories and the objects from the future will be presented in an online collection and in an e-book and will continue to grow as the Afrimakers tour travels through Africa.

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There are a few opportunities to get more involved with both the Imagine the Future project and the Afrimakers campaign:

For Imagine the Future, they’re looking for short vignettes or micro-fiction, in the style of Significant Objects, so if you (or someone you know) is a talented writer, get in touch!

For Afrimakers, they are also still looking for remote mentors (i.e. all over the world) in the following fields:

  • hardware prototyping
  • inquiry-based education
  • air quality detection and filtration
  • techniques of safe disposal of domestic liquid sewage
  • malaria detection
  • micro-biology for water and food safety
  • social entrepreneurship

If you or any of your friends/colleagues/students/ex-college roomates would like to mentor any of the programs on the ground please invite them to sign up here. More info on mentoring opportunities can be found here.

For more info on the Afrimakers campaign, check out some of the articles below:

“Afrimakers is a initiative born to inspire young African makers and plant the seed of local change through social entrepreneurship, digital fabrication and regional collaboration.” Arduino Blog

“The problems in Africa are complex – often there is a lack of the basics things like access to clean water, energy and information for everyone. Afrimakers wants to bring a sustainable change into this.” Make Tech X

“The maker movement is still very close to people’s hearts in emerging markets and they have a much more intimate relationship with the things they make and use because they have to value them more.” Venture Burn

… and constant blog updates can be found here

We’re very excited to see how the Afrimakers trip progresses, and we will be sure to post about the outstanding projects using SparkFun gear that arise from these great workshops.

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