STEM Centers are specialized learning facilities that offer hands-on engineering lab experience. Local-area students voluntarily and eagerly enroll at various age-appropriate programs offered by the STEM Centers, at no cost to the students. Lab mentors guide the students, accessing modern scientific equipment in a comfortable setting. The Centers also serve as venues for local gatherings and regional Science Fairs. Most Ethiopian STEM Centers are located near or on a university campus, as a university asset. Such ownership nurtures strong university-community bonding, provides academic oversight and achieves sustainability. The larger STEM Centers are eco-friendly buildings configured for labs, offices, storage, and an auditorium for science fairs and community meetings. In 2009, our founders constructed the first STEM Center, located in the Foka area of Bishoftu industrial city and then many more. Today, 31 STEM Centers operate in every regional state across the nation. As such, we serve as a force for national peace and development. STEMpower is establishing more STEM Centers in Ethiopia, SouthSudan, and other sub-Saharan nations. Through the extended family of STEM Centers, we distribute and encourage new hands-on engineering curricula. Beyond our standard labs of virtual computing and electronics (digital&analogµcomputers), 3D printing, we also develop soil&water tech, chemical engineering, and biomechanical programs.
Virtual Computer Labs
Our Virtual Computer Labs accommodate 30+ student workstations, using only one computer! Each student’s workstation (a keyboard, mouse, and display monitor) is connected to a miniature to “thin client”, which is an energy-efficient microcomputer. Those ~30 thin clients are networked to a single powerful PC computer, running a modern operating system. Each student workstation acts like a real computer, performing the workstation’s computer tasks, but in reality, there’s no PC computer at any workstation! The “virtual computer” arrangement saves large amounts of electricity, lessens the need to install heavy gauge wiring in school buildings, generates much less heat, and even prevents computer virus infection. This is a “green” solution that offers great benefits. The installation and operating knowledge have been successfully transferred to local implementers, i.e., we “train the trainers”. The old idea of “one-physical-computer-per-student” is disappearing from Ethiopia. There are now more than 100 successful virtual computer lab implementations across Ethiopia, supporting thousands of student workstations. Moreover, the novel virtual computer concept has been implemented across government, education, and research institutions.
STEMpower endeavors to reach every student in Ethiopia, no matter how far from urban areas. Our biweekly STEM-TV show reaches students who are unable to access the internet but have access to a home or community TV satellite dish. For the maximum audience, the show is produced by local talent, in the national language Amharic, including student-age actors who encourage all youth to become engaged in STEM thinking and possibilities. Our satellite broadcaster Walta estimates that 5 million viewers watch our regularly-scheduled Saturday dinnertime dish broadcasts. English-language captioning is added upon uploading to the internet.
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Science Shared Campus
“Shared Science Campus” (abreviated as “SSC”) successfully achieves a very high-quality secondary school education that rivals developed nations’ best schools. The concept draws in the most superior public school students from a metropolitan area to a science-focused public school of excellence, i.e., an SSC. The SSC offers students a superior teaching staff and an advanced classroom environment, over what is typically found in Ethiopian secondary schools. Interestingly, 60% of the SSC student beneficiaries are female. The SSC offers top-rated lab equipment and computer facilities. The science curriculum is deeper and broader. Theory is accompanied by student experiments, research materials, and university visitors. There are now 4 operating SSC’s in Ethiopia (Axum, BahirDar, Hawassa, and Kotebe). instill a rising quality of STEM education across all public high schools in Ethiopia. The expanding implementation of SSC’s is a rising tide that raises all boats in the nation.
University STEM Outreach
University STEM Outreach takes advantage of the summer break. During that idle period, STEMpower founders demonstrated how university existing assets (e.g., labs, dormitories, and cafeterias) and available university mentors (professors and college students) could be efficiently utilized to create a University STEM Outreach summer program for hundreds of talented students in the university catchment area (i.e., local community.) The result and cost-benefit ratio was persuasive. After two years, the Ethiopian Ministry of Education fully incorporated our program, extending it to all public universities in its domain (~40 universities) as as a permanent program run by the government. During the break, nearly every public university’s facilities transform into a large pop-up STEM center. 10,000+ students benefit each year.
Locally-run Science Fairs give students the chance to develop their creative skills and compete with their classmates. The local Science Fair winners go on to compete in larger Science Fairs, and those winners go on to the Ethiopian National Science Fair. The Ethiopian Science Fair approach may seem more engineering-oriented than traditional Science Fairs of the developed world. Instead of a hypothesis-experiment-conclusion format, the students participating in an Ethiopian Science Fair tend to design and showcase practical solutions to problems they see facing their nation and their African neighbors. The community-level Science Fair competitions in Ethiopia are open to students in grades 7-12. At this grass-roots level, a student will discuss their project concept with their local mentor. Mentors are always available through the STEM Centers. Moreover, as the STEM momentum is rapidly expanding across the entire nation, increasing numbers of private and public schools have been also holding their own local Science Fairs and providing mentors.
A Science Museum is a dedicated facility where all members of a community can informally discover science. STEMpower’s science museums feature interaction for hands-on scientific discovery in an informal setting. As of this writing, our founders established two Science Museums in Ethiopia. AASM is sited at the southeastern edge of the capitol city Addis Ababa (on the campus of AASTU), and other museum is sited within Ethiopia’s next-largest city Mekele. Israel’s MadaTech Science Museum is our partner. MadaTech’s design team manufactures the interactive museum displays according the needs of the local community in Ethiopia.