By Jehad Oumer (YES 2016-2017, Libya, hosted by AFS in Washington, DC)
During my YES exchange year, I became involved in robotics clubs and communities and even had the opportunity to participate in the FIRST Robotics Competition for the Chesapeake division. My experience with the competition, along with my teammate’s spirit and passion, inspired me to take a step up from just being a robotics hobbyist toward promoting robotics, programming, and a problem-solving mindset to the youth of my community at home in Libya.
In Libya, the educational curriculum centers on rote memorization with little focus on research and practical application. The incorporation of computer science in education is still in an early stage. While global education trends are incorporating technology in most disciplines, in Libya, students are not introduced to concepts of programming and problem-solving skills until more advanced levels of education.
To tackle this problem in my community, I applied for and was awarded a YES alumni grant to conduct TechMakers, a two-day intensive robotics and programming training program carried out in six public middle schools across Tripoli.
We targeted students enrolled in public schools because those students gain less technological knowledge and awareness compared to their peers in private educational facilities. Each school nominated 12 students to receive the training. The TechMakers team adopted a workshop style approach, providing participants with an interactive and collaborative learning environment to enhance STEM and problem-solving skills. Students were divided into teams, and each team built smart robots that later competed in obstacle avoidance and line tracing challenges. Participants learned concepts of robotics and programming, teamwork, and problem-solving using user-friendly robotics kits with easy-to-use instructions and interface, engaging participants in simple and creative challenges.
The TechMakers team worked to ensure sustainability and equality throughout the project. We gathered student feedback through evaluation forms, and I can proudly say the result were satisfying. Participants expressed their satisfaction with the training provided and their communication with the instructors. 89% of students rated their program experience as “excellent.” One of our main goals was also to give equal opportunity to both male and female students. Of our 72 total students, the gender split was an equal 50/50. Lastly, encouraging participants to build social connections with students from different classes was also a goal we achieved. 71% of TechMakers students have become friends with other students who participated.
Empowering youth is one of the main tenets of the YES Program, so I’m proud to have implemented TechMakers as a YES alumni grant project. I would like to give my sincere thanks to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for sponsoring TechMakers through YES alumni grants funds. I would also like that thank our dear partners, the Tripoli hub of Global Shapers and the Municipality of Tripoli Center. And last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank our team of trainers and volunteers, without which the project wouldn’t have succeeded.
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