The High school girls working on their Jiggybots

Africa is on the rise, and so are its women.

The first private African satellite is set to be launched in the first quarter of 2016 and we have an unexpected trio to thank for this. Usually one would expect such a massive milestone to be powered by leading African scientists. However, this is not the case. A group of three South African girls are in fact the ones behind this outstanding and innovative achievement.

On June 16th2015, a project backed by the Meta Economic Development Organisation (MEDO) in Cape Town was launched and multiple students took part in a robotics hackathon where they were asked to build tiny robots called ‘jiggy-bots’. This project they hosted was done alongside the launch of their Women in STEM* program, which is aimed at developing skills among young girls from grades 10 to 12.

The first part of the project had the girls assembling small robots from scratch. Afterwards, all the robots were pitted against each other to see which was the fastest. The successful contestants of the hackathon, the three South African girls, will then be able to start the building of their satellite during a camp called SPACETrek hosted by MEDO** Women in STEM program in September this year. The satellite is to be tested with the aid of high altitude weather balloons and radio communication in preparation for its official launch from South Africa in early 2016.

MEDO cited one of the reasons for hosting the competition was a way to overcome the negative apartheid legacy where non-white children were not allowed to learn Mathematics and Science. The intention of the programme is not to be a once-off but to be the start of a decade long drive to inspire young people to enter the science and technical fields.

The three girls, Nina-Rose Clark, Likhona Tonisi and Siddiqa Latif, who are still in high school, are said to have increased in confidence exponentially by being able to prove to themselves and to the world that they could achieve such a feat.

This is hopefully the first in many new innovations arising from the African youth. At the moment, thousands of young Africans are hard at work to make a difference in this world and in this continent. It’s all about taking a small idea and working with it until it yields results. Could it be you next to make a difference?

* STEM-Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics
**The MEDO is an organisation that assists South African companies by providing development programmes, incubation, and access to markets.

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