Founded in 2016, The Mekatilili Program, is an educational initiative that facilitates interactive workshops focused on Human-Centered Design (HCD) and basic engineering concepts to improve technical expertise, nurture innovation and to build creative confidence among the youth in Africa. The program has reached over 200 young people (mostly young girls and women), whose average age demographic ranges from 14 - 25 years.
The program was created to encourage young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) because of the lack of gender diversity in many STEM fields across the globe. Therefore, through the program, my goal is to expose students to design and technology for economic development. It has now evolved to include university students and early career professionals (male and female), thus forming three distinct program types:
1. High School Program:Day long trainings held in girls' high schools using an engaging design engineering curriculum that is inspired by the IDDS curriculum.
Sessions include: research, ideation, prototyping and iteration. The Mekatilili Toolkit contains all resources used during the workshop as shown below:
2. Design & the Internet of Things (IoT) Series: Recurring workshop series aimed at university students and early career professionals to develop design, technical and digital skills. Through these workshops participants utilize design thinking to create IoT devices. Click here to view videos from some sessions.
3. University Design & Research Program:Four week program to build student research capacity in universities using our Integrated Design Learning (IDL) curriculum.
Integrated Design Learning (IDL) is a framework, created by The Mekatilili Program, Artisan Hive and Foondi Workshops, that is used to develop creative thinking and entrepreneurship among the youth in Africa to solve global challenges.
The program has been awarded the Community Leadership Award by Women in Energy (WIE) and is a two-time recipient of the IDIN (International Development Innovation Network) Teaching Grant.
High school students from Loreto Convent Msongari using Design Thinking to prototype ideas.
David, the facilitator, guiding students through our Integrated Design Learning (IDL) curriculum, during the 2017 USIU-Africa Student Research Fair.
A project created by participants (using Arduino) during the Design & IoT workshops.
Participants of the 2017 Africa Women in Technology (AWIT) Conference team up for a Design Thinking session run by The Mekatilili Program.
Students from St. Angela's Girls Secondary School work in teams to brainstorm ideas.
Fab Lab Nairobi Outreach
I was part of the pioneering team that formed the Fab Lab Outreach Program, which educates children in computer science and technology, with a focus on underprivileged schools.
Students (aged 8 – 18) learn robotics, programming and animation utilizing Scratch, PicoCricket, GoGo Board, and Arduino technologies. Most traditional education systems, do not nurture critical thinking and non-cognitive skills (e.g. curiosity, empathy and sociability); stifle creative learning; and fail to expose students to pertinent digital skills. Therefore, during sessions, students are encouraged to learn through exploration and experimentation, thus creating an enabling creative learning environment that enhances technical literacy and the overall child's potential.
During the half-day sessions, instructional responsibility is shared among facilitators with students working in groups of 3 to 6. As a facilitator and mentor, I would organize the workshops, prepare content and program materials; and assist students to build projects.
The program reached over 100 students and partnered with Kuweni Serious and Nike Foundation’s- the Girl Effect; and also Safaricom’s Kidz Go Tech.
300 million working-age youth globally are unemployed. In sub-Saharan Africa there are more youth entering the job market than jobs available. Another part of the problem is education: the rote-based school system does not cultivate essential workplace skills for employment. With the rapid rise in telecommuting and outsourcing, trends show that the future of work is digital. The freelance economy in the US alone had 55M jobs in 2016, with an annual growth rate of over 25% globally. While many of the unemployed youth have basic foundational skills, they do not have the professional experience that would enable them to access these digital careers.
To take advantage of these employment opportunities, there is a need for a solution that will provide these youth with digital workplace skills. While there are many skill-based training programs already in the market, they do not match trainees with real paying clients.
Our solution is two-fold. First, we will provide digital freelancing jobs to the youth in a "earn and learn" model. The freelancers will learn-by-doing on the job training and fill in their skill gaps while earning basic income. Second, for each freelancing project we will match freelancers in teams, which will help transfer skills from one experienced freelancer to another as well as assure quality. This training will help them "learn to earn" and eventually access bigger and better jobs.
We will build knowledge for unemployed youth through live, on-demand screen shares. The skill transfer takes place in a video conference environment where the skill master (trainer) will share his or her screen while performing digital tasks. Data collection will play a big role in this project. By collecting data on the users, we can assess their skills and rate their experience, then use this data to match them into co-working teams.
This solution will address both the unemployment issue in Kenya and the skill gap issue using existing technology.
Amandla process map.
Personalized skill pathway.
Matching customers with teams.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) learning.
Team working through the design process during UNLEASH LAB 2017.
There is an evident lack of representation of African women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
For young girls, representation is absolutely important! Many yearn to see successful and influential women who look like them, talk like them and share similar experiences. Unfortunately for African girls the lack of diversity in industry discourages them from pursuing certain careers .
Queengineers is a free, digital magazine that showcases women in various fields of engineering by sharing personal and inspirational stories; making it the first of its kind in Kenya. The magazine has been viewed over 5000 times and currently, there are 175 subscribers.
In future, we hope to distribute the magazine to all high schools in Kenya.
How can we address the gap between short-term relief and long-term sustainable development for humanitarian relief?
Rethink Relief, which is organized by D-Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is a program with the vision of creating innovative technologies and products to fill the gaps between the initial humanitarian response to a disaster or conflict, and the resettlement and recovery that follows. In 2014, it was held in Pader; a town post-conflict, Northern Uganda.
It was there that WeLight was developed which is is a portable light kit for the residents from Adjumani refugee camp in Pader. The kit serves to empower its users by teaching them to make their own lights by providing educational kits and support services to teach livelihood skills and build local enterprises.
Household lighting is not supplied in many refugee camps, yet there are safety issues that arise from insufficient lighting. Ready-made lights are supplied by NGO’s, but handouts do not empower people or address the issue of widespread un-employment and under-employment. WeLight teaches people how to make their own lights. Educational kits and support services are provided through local partners and field staff to provide lights, teach livelihood skills and build local enterprises.
As part of the light team, I utilized the design process to research about the problem by visiting the camps and interviewing people in the community; generating ideas through brainstorming and prototyping the final solution. Furthermore, my role was to also build the prototype (as shown) that was presented to community members during final presentations. I fabricated the wooden structure; and also designed and created the components housed inside the box.
Read herefor a personal account of my memorable experience during Rethink Relief!
Residents from the community gather to our station to learn more about WeLight.
Creating and building the prototype.
Final day of Rethink Relief.
Role: Team Lead
Innovated the novel idea of a bamboo honeycomb structure with bamboo laminate facings to replace non-biodegradable plastic composites used as airplane cabin walls. The objective of the project was focused on two areas: environmental impact and performance impact.
Currently, most of the vertical and ceiling surfaces of aircrafts are comprised of sandwich panels fabricated from face sheets of phenolic resin and fibreglass or carbon fibre reinforcement, and a polyaramid (Nomex®) core. Ironically, the very composites that make an aircraft lighter and improve fuel efficiency are also very difficult to deal with environmentally, hence bamboo was considered as an alternative.
A sandwich construction is commonly used in structures where strength, stiffness, and weight efficiency are required. Low-density, hexagonal honeycombs are preferred as the core material on performance basis.
Thus, we merged the above concepts (bamboo and sandwich construction) and developed: bamboo honeycomb structure with bamboo laminate facings.
For this project, my team worked with raw bamboo shoots and through various fabrication processes we produced a working prototype. Later, we tested various mechanical properties of the prototype such as tensile strength, compressive strength, shear strength, flexural strength and bending elasticity modulus against existing materials used in aircrafts. Throughout the project, we implemented methodologies and practices found in aeronautics, materials science, structural mechanics and rapid prototyping.
As team lead, I coordinated and managed all the operations of the team and was responsible for research, information gathering and overall project management.
Completed prototype of a laminated, bamboo honeycomb structure, with the required bend achieved.
CAD image of bent bamboo with sandwiched honeycomb structure included.
CAD image of flat bamboo panel.
Various prototype iterations.
Role: Team Lead
(Mwangaza means 'light' in Swahili)
Partnered with PHILIPS to design and install a lighting system in an underpass at the University of Nairobi, using solar- LED lighting as a countermeasure to curb insecurity in and around the underpass in the evenings. As a result of the insecurity, students risked crossing a very busy highway rather than walk through the dark underpass to get to their hostels.
As project leader, I came up with the timelines, scheduled meetings with stakeholders, sought suppliers for materials, and managed the finances. In addition to that, I was responsible for the architectural lighting design; and the overall design and fabrication of the luminaire housing.
Utilizing light design techniques, the project involved: identification of the chosen luminaire and LED driver; calculation of the number of luminaires; definition of the battery type; definition of solar panel rating; and finally design (using Computer-Aided Design software) and construction of luminaire housing.
Moreover, to promote public awareness we created a series of posters to deter vandalism of the newly installed lights. The posters were placed at different locations around the school and at the underpass.
Completed installation of solar-LED lighting system in the underpass at the Univerisity of Nairobi.
CAD image of solar - LED luminaire enclosed in housing.
Metal construction of luminaire housing.
Poster used to create public awareness against vandalism.
Electric Car Chassis
Role: Project Co-Lead
The aim of this project was to design a vehicle chassis with high torsional stiffness, low centre of gravity and low weight for optimal performance.
The project covered chassis type selection; and packaging, which included: battery, motor, pedals and steering wheel placement. This then led to the chassis design where a broad range of design considerations were covered. CAD model development was a major part of the process which then informed the material selection. Stress analysis was completed on the final chassis design to determine the load capacity, hence which joints were most susceptible to failure to enable strength optimization.
It was found that the most suitable chassis type was a space-frame chassis. Battery location was determined to be placed at the sides of the driver to increase the vehicle's handling and to add side impact protection to the driver.
The design tools used were CAD software: AutoCAD and SolidWorks. AutoCAD was used in the idea generation phase and SolidWorks was used in generation of a 3D model. A combination of round and square tubing was found to be most ideal for the chassis. After testing and several modifications, the total number of members came to: 72, bringing the total weight of the chassis to be 55.2 kg.
Completed CAD image of proposed electric car chassis.
Technical drawing of chassis design.
Technical drawing of chassis design with detailed description of material specifications.
To projects that are just beginning and to those unfinished.
I received a Google Women Techmaker's scholarship to learn Android development on Udacity. I spent 6 months pursing the online Android Basics course to learn XML and Java to create various apps. Coursework covered: user interface, user input, multi-screen apps, networking, and data storage.
Role: Creator & Designer
Menza is a design thinking and project management board game for single to five players, in which the player’s goal is to effectively and efficiently manage costs at various stages of the design process, i.e.: empathy, plan, ideate, prototype and test.
The game is comprised of 4 groups of characters: the players, the investors, the stakeholders and the bank. The player's task is to ensure that they appease both the investors and the stakeholders, while the duty of the investor is to keep the project within budget and to minimize borrowing from the bank.
Throughout the game, player's travel to different locations where they encounter problems within each community based on a certain theme. The goal of the visit is to understand their user's.
The next step is to brainstorm to develop a solution that relates to the user's problems. Prototyping is achieved through purchasing the necessary materials and hiring workers to carry out the task.
The stakeholders then have to approve the prototype before carrying out tests. Once testing is complete, the solution can then be implemented in the community!
Along the journey, player's may encounter risks in the form of time constraints. They also have to make certain decisions that could affect their budget.
I designed the game, built the prototype and conducted user testing.
The number of major amputees in Kenya is steadily increasing due to trauma, tumours and complications of diabetes mellitus. Due to poverty and unavailability of suitable prosthetic limbs in Kenya, a low percentage of these amputees are adequately rehabilitated with prostheses.
Amputated limbs differ with each amputee. That is why developing user specific prostheses are vital. A limb that is fitted to a certain amputee will not be suitable for another. Therefore 3D scanning and printing provides a necessary tool for this. The sound limb would be scanned using a 3D scanner, producing a 3D replica of it. The image can then be manipulated using Computerized Aided Design (CAD) software to create a suitable 3D prosthetic limb that is specific to a certain person. 3D printed prototypes can also be produced for testing before actual fitting is done.
The images show socket adapters that I 3D printed. I first replicated them using CAD software (Rhino) while I 3D scanned others then finally printed.