Is tech education what the developing world needs? As the argument goes, what good is learning to code when water purification is still a fantasy? One answer has come from HacKIDemia’s Afrimakers project, a crowdsourced campaign to bring the "maker revolution" to the third world via a kit of sensors, microcontrollers, and good ol’ fashioned scrappy programming.
Afrimakers wants its communities to take the program-donated box of goodies to “use and create extremely affordable technology for solving local challenges.” To that end, their goody box includes a range of sensors for detecting things like humidity, temperature, pulse, color, and carbon monoxide to hook up to Raspberry Pi and quartet of Arduinos in each kit. With a few breadboards for good measure, these sensors can monitor local conditions or be put on a wearable rig for LED-linked health monitors.
But Afrimakers doesn't just want to airdrop hardware components. Integral to the project's mission is the hands-on training to build “hubs” in seven African countries—Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt—intended to become regional tech education centers of their own after HacKIDemia trains local volunteers to become resource experts.
The kit-equipped hubs will host classroom workshops for kids to immerse themselves in the immediate-reward tangibility of maker tinkering—skills that will transfer to constructing gadgets and resource monitors that the Afrimakers founders hope will improve local quality of life.
The above video is from the Afrimakers pilot program in Nigeria. These 400 kids did much more than light up an LED with a potato. Their list of accomplishes includes building a waste-to-energy converter, DNA extractor, and robotic mini-backhoe constructor.
The Afrimakers Indiegogo campaign has raised $8,432 of its $50,000 goal—enough to fund two of the planned seven hubs, each of which will get two kits costing $1,000 apiece. Each hub’s team of volunteer experts has a self-financing campaign charging wealthier private schools for workshop classes, which in turn funds the free workshops that the teams bring to public schools.
It should be noted that HacKIDemia, the youth-maker-educating group behind Afrimakers, has been arranging accessible workshops for youth around the world since Summer 2012. With a board of mentors like astronaut Dan Berry, founder and director of Fundación Escuela Nueva Vicky Colbert, and Stanford lecturer of Entrepreneurship and Clean Energy Tony Seba, HacKIDemia has established 23 hubs on five continents.