In the heart of Rwanda, the Rwanda Makerspace Consortium, in collaboration with the Benebikira congregation and the district of Bugesera, has ignited a transformative initiative – the establishment of makerspaces in 21 selected schools. This ambitious venture, supported by the LEGO Foundation Playful Engineering Based-Learning (PEBL) grant, is not just about physical spaces; it’s about fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration within the educational landscape.
The foundation of this groundbreaking project was laid through collaboration with the Benebikira congregation and the Bugesera district in choosing a total of 21 schools to establish makerspaces, including ten Benebikira schools, ten public schools in Bugesera district, and one primary school in Nyagatare District—this strategic selection aimed to ensure a widespread impact, touching various communities and demographics.
In April 2022, the initiative took a significant step forward with a virtual Novel Engineering pilot teacher training. Led by the Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) staff and faculty, this week-long training brought together ten teachers from 5 different schools. In this immersive training, educators engaged in hands-on engineering activities and discussed how they could implement them with their students.
In October 2022, PEBL Fellow Djamila Khamisi collaborated with Tufts University, spending three weeks co-designing Novel Engineering and Arduino teacher training. This strategic partnership between the PEBL Fellow and Tufts faculty and staff ensured a culturally relative approach, aligning the training with the unique needs and aspirations of Rwandan educators.
The momentum continued in December 2022 when 42 teachers from the 21 selected schools participated in a comprehensive teacher training program held over two weekends at Maranyundo Girls School. Primary school teachers delved into Novel Engineering, while their secondary school counterparts explored Arduino. Beyond skills, this training fostered a community of practice that continued well beyond the training, with teachers connecting through WhatsApp to share stories and photos, building a supportive network across the participating schools.
As the calendar turned to January 2023, makerspace supplies were sourced and distributed to all 21 schools. These materials formed the foundation for establishing makerspace clubs in each school, where students and teachers alike would converge after school and on weekends to design and build with the materials.
This Consortium’s work culminated on July 1st, 2023, as Maranyundo Girls School hosted a competition and exhibition fair for the makerspace clubs from the 20 other schools. Over 300 participants gathered for the event, including two teachers per school, 10-15 students per school, 2-5 administrators per school, six judges, and more than ten guests. Schools that participated received makerspace books, Arduino kits, and multimeters, with the winners earning coveted 3D printers and tablets.
The collaborative efforts of the Rwanda Makerspace Consortium, in partnership with the Benebikira congregation, the Bugesera district, and the Playful Engineering Based-Learning initiative, have not only established makerspaces but have also sown the seeds of innovation, collaboration, and community in Rwandan schools. As teachers and students continue to explore the realms of Novel Engineering and Arduino, the impact of this initiative extends beyond the physical spaces, shaping the future of education in Rwanda. Maranyundo Girls School aims to continue to be a catalyst in this work, as they plan to build a teacher training facility on their campus.