Monday, August 10, 2015

Introducing the "Mission Innovation" research project and "Finding Your Voice" life skills module

For me, a high point of Camp TechKobwa is inspiring girls to be leaders and problem solvers.  We do this by teaching Life Skills modules and having them do the “Mission Innovation” research project.  The “Finding Your Voice” Life Skills module in particular tries to inspire girls to be problem solvers and directly aligns with introducing the “Mission Innovation” project.

What is “Mission Innovation?”  It begins with a presentation about emerging technologies and how some of these technologies are helping solve some of the world’s “grand challenges.”  We then ask girls to think about issues that impact them every day.  But this presentation is more than a thought provoking exercise.  It launches the campers into their research project. 

The presentation itself begins with a discussion about a “mission” being an important job that a person or group has and the word “innovation” meaning applied creativity.  We impress upon the girls that they were selected to attend camp because of their aptitude for problem-solving and potential to be strong leaders.  The presentation concludes with the girls being divided into teams of three to select a “grand challenge” towards developing ideas using technology that might help address that “grand challenge.” 

The teams were asked if they accepted their mission to be leaders and innovative problem solvers.  The resounding response was “yes!” 

The 20 teams selected topics such as:
  • Preventing Malaria (4 teams)
  • Improving ICT Access (4 teams)
  • Paying school fees (3 teams)
  • Addressing Soil Erosion (3 teams)
  • Increasing Tourism in Rwanda (2 teams)
  • Decreasing HIV
  • Improving Cultivation
  • Improving Roads
  • Unemployment

The next morning began with the “Finding Your Voice” Life Skills module which acquainted campers with female role models who provided significant contributions to the mobile phone over the course of decades.  Students realize that the mobile phone, as with most solutions, was created over years by many teams of people.  All of these people’s contributions were required to arrive at the mobile phone technology we have today.  Everyone’s ideas were needed.

We then familiarized the girls with a few problem definition and problem solving techniques such as using the Five Levels of Asking Why, describing a problem in 40 words or less and then cutting the number of words in half and half again, and brainstorming for solutions by turning it into a game.  Students were encouraged to offer even what they thought were impossible ideas to implement because many new inventions are nothing other than someone doing for the first time, that which until that point was considered impossible. 

“Finding Your Voice” ended with girls working in their research groups and practicing one or more of the techniques covered in the lecture.

This is the second year we have done the “Mission Innovation” project and used the “Finding Your Voice” module to begin girls thinking about their topic.  Each year the girls hesitantly form teams, choose a topic but then really start to get engaged in their topic when they practice the “Finding Your Voice” techniques.

The “Mission Innovation” project has other modules but I’ll cover them in other blog articles.  But, once again, I was very impressed with the topics students selected and the way they took the project very seriously.

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