What are TEACH Rwanda’s roots—and wings? This engaging interview with TEACH Rwanda’s Jan Brown and Bill Whipple offer insights into how this small INGO is transforming education, for teachers and students, through teacher mentoring and their demonstration school. The interview was recorded for the Rotary eClub of Silicon Valley in 2022.
Reporter Jade Natacha was introduced to TEACH Rwanda when she attended a
New Hope LEGO Robotics Team meeting at Bright School. Here’s a link to her
Jade, a student at African Leadership University, was intrigued by TEACH
Rwanda’s approach to mentoring Rwanda’s teachers. She immediately followed up
with an interview of TR’s Founder and President, Jan Brown. That lively
interview resulted not only in this article,
Watch this video to see team members in action!
Two passions connect!
In 2019, TEACH Rwanda’s in-country board members, Jan Brown and Bill Whipple, welcomed Eric Biribuze to Bright School, TEACH Rwanda’s flagship Exemplary School. He was so intrigued with our engaging, evidence-based approach to education that he returned in February 2020.
Eric (holding the child) and Jan joined with two other visitors in February 2020.
Eric is from Burundi, married to a Rwandan, and is an award-winning engineer in the U.S. at Corning Incorporated. which makes the glass (aptly named Gorilla Glass) in the Rwandan-made Mara Phones. His passion is to advance STEM in Rwanda, Burundi, and around the world, by increasing accessibility to opportunities for students to uplift the potential of their communities. One of his dreams has been to field an internationally competitive LEGO Robotics Team from Rwanda. He even founded a nonprofit organization, called STELA (Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Leadership Academy), to support his ambitious goals.
After visiting Bright School twice, Jan, Bill, and Eric recognized that our TEACH Rwanda Exemplary School would be a perfect home for the first Rwandan LEGO Robotics Team. Bright School’s evidence-based education, focused on experiential learning through projects and play, with inquisitive, engaged students from all levels of society supports the collaborative, exploratory, inclusive learning exemplified by the LEGO robotics program.
Due to COVID closures, it took almost 2 years to get the robotics team underway. Meanwhile, Bright School students at our mobile library continued to ask when it would start. When the time came to apply, many more applications were received than could be accepted, so an interview process was used to choose which students were the best candidates.
Rwanda’s first LEGO Robotics team launches!
On Saturday, November 13, 2021, thirteen excited students between the ages of 7 and 14 along with five adult coaches gathered in a classroom at Bright School to begin combining the LEGO kits’ specialized sensors, motors, and hubs to begin their exciting journey.
Since then, students have created a variety of vehicles and machines that move, rotate, write, and perform other actions that their makers program them to do. Students use Spike Prime programming language and the LEGO robotics kits to create a variety of inventions.
Two students were inspired by this book to make a Ferris wheel, an engineering feat they have never seen.
In Rwanda, volunteers to lead the team include two computer engineering graduates from Carnegie Mellon University’s campus in Rwanda (Gloria Umutezi, Solange Iyubyu), secondary school graduates (Philemon Amanzi Mucyo, David Ishimwe), are our pioneering volunteers, along with other curious adults who work with three teachers from Bright School. In the U.S., two more engineers from Corning, Sam Zoubi and Carlos Alonzo join Eric to mentor our Rwandan volunteers through a weekly Zoom call.
Eric returned to Rwanda in late December 2021, this time with STELA T-shirts for his partners at Bright School. Little did we know that an article about our LEGO Robotics Team published in The New Times would soon garner national attention.
Most of our Future Hopes Robotics, sporting their new STELA T-shirts.
Rwanda’s Minister of ICT and Innovation Tours Bright School
On January 21, 2022, Paula Ingabire, Rwanda’s Minister of ICT and Innovation came to see the Future Hopes in action. Team members explained to the Minister, an MIT graduate, how they design, construct, and program robots. She has promised ministry support of our unique initiative.
Minister of ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire, talks with Future Hopes team members at Bright School.
This pilot team is a challenging learning experience for everyone involved on both continents. Our goal? That our Future Hopes team will be ready to compete by September 2022.
TEACH Rwanda is honored to have been recognized by the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda for our efforts to support our teachers, students, and students' families during this challenging time.
Please watch the YouTube video in Kinyarwanda listed below!
Thank you very much to all of our donors, volunteers, teachers and supporters.
Your contributions are making a difference!
What did many Bright School children do during their break between Terms 2 and 3? From July 22 to August 2, 29 students were thrilled to be immersed in an enrichment program with these integrated themes:
Week 1—Emotions, Ethics, Creativity
During the first week, the children engaged in activities that encouraged self-discovery & emotional development, exploration of various challenges in their communities, team ethics, and the ability to innovatively think of solutions in the face of a challenge. Children were inspired to see themselves as capable young change-makers.