15 November 2017

Ethiopia: STEM to Accelerate Nation's Renaissance

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) stream is showing remarkable progress in the first and second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP-I and GTP-II) in the Ethiopian context.

State Minister of MoST Professor Afework Kassu recently told The Ethiopian Herald that high productivity in various sectors will be made practical only through modern research and technological advancement.

It is due to this fact that the nation has envisioned to be one among the exporter of technology products beyond agricultural products in the times to come.

Technology transformation is the major focus of the country. The nation is unexpectedly moving in all spectra including the launching of a satellite that will collect land information from above within two years' time. He said the satellite is now under process in collaboration with Ethiopian and Chinese Engineers.

The State Minister also highlighted that research is the area where the nation has established strong foundation in GTP-II. He underscored "Conducting research under joint intervention is more demanded, and practical action researches are given prior support than basic researches in various science and technology related ministries, institutions and sectors."

Bringing cultural transformation is still a challenge to the sector which would enable children to explore more on the science and technology field. "A culture which is not built on science and technology is one of the biggest challenges to the sector. Science and technology is a sector that takes the nation further and advanced it in all aspects," the State Minister further said.

Now, a number of children are getting attracted to science, technology, engineering and innovation. However, the necessary supports, recognition and all sorts of creativity in the field are not practical in all areas. Indeed, efforts are here and there by different stakeholders to tap sector's potential, but much remains to be done. Though it is loose, individuals, organizations and donors are exerting efforts to encourage children to have inclination in the science and technology stream, the State Minister said. As a result, students have begun to stimulate appetite for the sector and are innovating new ideas.

Recently, 120 students who came from across the nation have presented their creative works at the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences on the National Science Fair Competition.

Dawit Nigus, came from Bahir Dar, was one of the students who displayed his innovation. He presented a welding machine which works with water and sodium Chloride.

Acording to him, his creative work uses a little power from electricity and saves power. It is beneficial for rural schools and farmers and it is sold in an affordable price.

As to Dawit the welding machine when it is imported costs 5,000 Birr. However, his innovation has reduced the cost to 400 Birr.

Bahir Dar University Science and Technology Development Center Head Tesfaye Shiferaw, told The Ethiopain Herald that Dawit and his team members, who have presented their various creative works at The National Science

Fair encompass the areas of engineering, robotics and other innovations.

"As part of promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics in educational institutions, the STEM Center assists our University and the students that are benefiting from the program are introducing practical community problem solving innovations."

The Head further said the students are now presenting model innovations and looking for market linkage is the next assignment that should be done ahead.

Nicole Vigeant is a visitor from US. She said the innovative works exhibited by students are impressive. "The works would have substantial roles in solving community-based problems."

According to her a nation that does not invest a lot on science and technology makes itself less advantageous in this modern world.

She further said "I am excited to see small children doing their best to curb problems of their community."

In addition to the multifaceted government's efforts to develop the sector, STEM Synergy is highly complementing to yield science and technology culture which is crucial to sectors transformation.

General Education Sector State Minister's Office Representative in the Ministry of Education Birhanu Morada recently highlighted that the government of Ethiopia has given prime attention to the sector with a vision of creating a better working and living environment.

Founder of STEM Synergy in Ethiopia Mark I. Gelfand, who introduced this program to Ethiopia, said STEM centers, labs and many more necessary facilities are now available in almost all corners of the country. "As a pilot program, we had first started working in some areas of the nation. But now we are almost working with all the universities, states and the two city administrations to realize the synergy we are aspiring."

He highlighted that STEM Synergy currently has started working with the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences in Addis Ababa. This enrichment program is also implemented in neighboring countries like Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi and South Sudan.

Board of Directors President of STEM Synergy Francis M. Vigeant who attended the National Fair said that STEM is creating opportunity to the youth and children of Ethiopia to widen their imagination, bring about solution to community problems and improve their lives.

At the Fair , problem solving innovations made by students, such as electronic wheelchair, satellite, rockets, welding and melting machines are exhibited.

Nearly, 120 students drawn from all over the country took part in the National Fair and displayed their innovations to public for about a week.

On the occasion, students who excelled with their innovate works (in the areas of engineering and robotics) are awarded. Special awards are also given for women in all the categories.

It is said that there are a number of innovators who invented various works but can not exhibit their pieces to the public due to various reasons. Hence, expanding the competition platform across the country and creating the opportunity for more innovators through various agencies, programs and partners at all levels is crucial.

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