On 16 June, International Youth Day, MEDO Space brought 150 school girls together in Cape Town to go through an intensive robotics workshop as part of the MEDO Space programme. The day saw all 150 young women not only build intelligent robots, but also learnt how to programme them.
This inspired, and recently evolved, programme aims to empower young women and provide them with the necessary skills and passion to embark on careers in science, technology, engineering and maths. This decade-long programme addresses the skills shortage in South Africa relating to STEM – which will make up 80% of future jobs in the country as we move forward into the fourth industrial revolution. The event was addressed by keynote speaker Adriana Marais who has qualified in the top 100 people selected to participate in the Mars One expedition. The expedition will send four astronauts to Mars every four years to establish permanent residence, starting in 2024.
During this workshop, known as SPACE Prep, the girls used home grown South African technology to build small, programmable rovers from scratch. These were coded by the girls themselves – equipping them with an important STEM skill: coding. The aim of the day was to introduce young women to electronics and the basics of practical science, paving the way for young women in STEM. The girls can then take their rovers home and plug them into a smart phone, PC or laptop and connect them to an app and continue coding them at will. The girls will start by coding the rovers to move in patterns and later they will learn to use motion sensors and how to add light and sound sensors to the rovers. By teaching the girls advanced STEM skills, MEDO Space brings them even closer to being able to contribute to the satellite payload.
“At the World Economic Forum for Africa held recently, Elsie Kanza, head of WEF Africa, said her vision for Africa as part of the fourth industrial revolution is for the continent to send a team of women to Mars in a spacecraft designed and launched from our own soil. Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, echoed this sentiment by pushing for ICT infrastructure investment. Africa is charging into the 4th technological revolution and it will be the era of technology. MEDO Space is already headlining this revolution by teaching young women in high schools how to build functioning satellites. Very soon Africa will have its very own place among the stars” concludes Carla de Klerk, MEDO Space Programme Manager.