Meet The Girls of Iganga Secondary!

17 07 2019

We have 2 new programs we are introducing to STEM through robotics in 2 new locations. We are equipping these 2 schools and delivering teacher and student training to help get them started and will be including them in our events this year as we begin to grow the robotics community and interest in Uganda. The first school, Iganda Girls Secondary School we visited we had met before indirectly in a few regards. Many of the girls from this school had been involved in the Django Girls Coding Conference that was held in Jinja last year and Just Cause sponsored. So they were eager learners with a little bit of experience in computer programming. The computer science teacher at this school is none other than Teacher Silbert, the teacher that was teaching at Jinja SS when we first met the team of kids that would form J-Robotics 4 years ago! 4 of these same students became part of the STEAM outreach program that we started and are now the leaders! So we knew we had someone on board there at Iganga Girls SS who was familiar with what we do & knew enough about it that when he contacted our outreach crew in the spring to come out to Iganga to share what they have accomplished and show the girls robotics and our program that this was a great match for us. Plus, our main organizer and logistics manager who has been a massive part of JCEO from the start is from Iganga himself! So that was a nice bonus too!

We packed a lunch for the 3 university students coming with us to deliver the program so they could eat in the car during the hour drive from Jinja to Iganga and be fueled up and ready with their A game to get the teachers and more importantly the students interested and motivated to try this new program! We had pre-organized all of the equipment that would make up the startup kit and loaded it into the car as well as prepared the software licenses/downloads needed. This was largely made possible thanks to significant equipment donations (facilitated by long time JCEO supporter Karthik!) from an American robotics team, Mann Robotics from South Carolina and a Canada team (Renaissance Robotics from St. Thomas, Ontario) as well as the VEX Robotics company themselves. HUGE shout out to all who helped with this effort! It is an amazing example of a team effort to get these girls going!

When we arrived we were greeted by another of the CS teachers, Teacher Paul, who walked with us to the school’s computer lab. It was actually fairly well equipped in terms of the number machines, they were just not new by any means but they would (probably) run the software okay. This is always the first thing we assess because if a school needs computers or a laptop it is something we have to plan for back home and not leave equipment there. The boys had told us when we talked about this last month that this place was better equipped than Jinja SS so we knew ahead we were going to be ok in this regard.

So we unloaded the car and laid out what we had brought and inquired with Paul which machine they would want the software installed on. Some of the packages are a download so we used our mobile hotspot to download it for them onto the class projector’s laptop and thatway it could be moved to other machines as needed. Then the students started arriving for the presentation.

The girls that were coming in were all part of the computers club at the school. This school has 1600+ students and 90 (!!!!) of them are in this club! We were SO impressed with this number and couldn’t believe it and we had no idea our audience was going to be this huge! The girls had been released from regular classes which is unheard of here for any reason at any school because this presentation was very important to them. The reason for this is that the UCC, Uganda Communication Commission had been to their school and was pushing them to get the girls involved in STEM initiatives. It was a part of a government program but of course it did not come with much direction or any equipment, funding or real guidance. The head teacher and the headmaster were both thrilled that we were there and were all about “educating the girl child” and how the “girls are not often encouraged for sciences and technology”.  They were very happy with our timing and that we had agreed to come there.We certainly had a captive audience because a UCC initiative is serious biz!

After a brief intro about JCEO, what we do and why girls in STEM matter, Baker, Picavet and Ronnie took it from there. They were incredible and taught the intro like pros! Watching and listening to them in action really, really drove home how much they have learned and gained over the 4 years involved with us — through the Hackerspace, STEM events & robotics competitions, their own tech startup and JCEO Outreach programs. The way they chose to explain things using a human body analogy and repeating and returning to previous terminology was perfect for a newbie to robotics to start with! It was just such a cool thing to watch! We couldn’t have been more impressed. The questions from the girls throughout the presentation were terrific! They asked things like “when the body gets old, people get sick and have problems or die, do you think that is also the same as a robot”? Which brought in a great discussion about parts, wear and tear, obsolescence and code! Another good one that made myself and the boys laugh “What happens at a competition if your robot breaks down?”. That one brought about some personal stories from each of them and a discussion about teamwork and the value of persistence, trouble shooting and not becoming discouraged. The coding was something they were a bit nervous about but we showed them how to use the graphical interface that basically lets you write a program in plain words and as long as you can describe in a sentence what you want to happen you can code it! With a  live human demo and the command blocks projected on the screen as we went through it, we could explain this well:  “move forward for 10 seconds–>pause for 2s–>if you see the colour blue infront of you turn right—>otherwise keep going straight”. Then with the click of a button you can “translate” it all into the Python programming language, providing a great way to learn to write actual lines of code!

The president of the club, Sharifa, expressed her thanks on behalf of the girls and said that they are determined to learn enough to join us for a robotics competition this year and will not let us down! Our final message was to tell them we believe in them, never to let anyone tell you you cannot do something because you are a girl and that we know they can beat the boys!!! We made some plans to head out there at the teacher’s request to support the team through their first couple of builds for 4-6 sessions over the next 2 weeks. By the time we were ready to head back to Jinja, we were all pretty pumped up and excited! The number of interested kids, the enthusiasm, support from teachers and the questions they asked left us very pleased with the decision to partner with this school. For JCEO, as a female led organization, we have been really trying to get more girls involved in our STEM programs and made it one of our goals for 2020. It looks like we are certainly going to meet this goal and it is fantastic to have so many Ugandan mentors, teachers and students well aware of the gender gap in science & tech and on board to try and challenge this stereotype and get girls involved!

Nattering & Nazigo

16 07 2019

The amount of idle time involved in being busy here is probably the most frustrating part. Without infrastructure, 4 lane roads, metered parking, one-stop-shopping options of big-box retail (not that we’re Walmart shoppers by any means!) preset prices, or the option of using debit and credit everywhere you go means getting supplies and materials for any project you undertake here in your day to day life (not just as an NGO) is far more challenging. Life is pretty easy in Canada.  For instance you have to have cash for everything here. ATMs give you almost exclusively 50,000 shilling bills when you make a large withdraw. A boda ride into town is 500-2000 (depending on how well you negotiate and where in town you are headed). 12 rolls of TP is 12,000-16,000 (depending on plys and where you shop and how well you negotiate). There is zero chance that boda driver will have change for you. It’s unlikely they could break a 10 or 20k bill. So you better pre-plan your boda rides and have small bills and coins on you or you are either going nowhere or going to get ripped off/waste your money. There is a 50-50 chance that the shop will be able to give you change for your TP purchase. So you have to wait for the shop keeper to send someone with your 50k bill to other shops to find someone who has change (or balance as it’s referred to here). Today it was a 23 minute wait for that to happen. Sounds like not that big of a deal, but, if this happened to you picking up a bag of milk, then buying some some Tylenol followed by getting gas in your car, at every single stop (and you needed the right cash and you have to negotiate the price of each individual item) and this happened daily you would dread needing something….but it would also make you a lot more mindful of spending money and plan your time a whole lot better! Then factor in that you need to travel by boda to every stop if you don’t have a car or on foot….Basically getting anything you need here is never easy, convenient or enjoyable! Anyway, we just are so used to accomplishing so many things in a short amount of time, readjusting your way of thinking and how you plan a day here is necessary. Patience is certainly a valuable asset and makes for a much better day if you can hold onto it!

So, medical supplies. We went to pickup supplies for the women’s clinic that we have supported for many years in a rural area called Nazigo. Some of these things were available at the pharmacy and we knew of one where you could get great prices on bulk supplies. The majority of the things that Rose, the nurse (there is no doctor) needs for her clinic are for women’s

health, pregnancy and births and we had consulted her for a list of her biggest needs at this time. Cotton for bleeding, suture kits, injectables for clotting, syringes, IVs, malaria test kits, folic acid and pain killers were all high on her list. Surgical gloves were her number one. She also needed something we had never heard of – “Mackintosh”….which turned out to be something you buy at the hardware store and is a roll of thick, black plastic that is used to cover beds during births. So it was a bizarre place for clinic supplies, but that’s where we got it. Rose was overjoyed to see that we had brought her these things and as we unpacked the supplies we always get to ask questions and hear all about her year, the health of the community and what kinds of trends she is seeing. She let us see all of her (impeccable!) records that showed how many births, vaccinations etc. from last year compared to this year and the projections going forward.

This clinic has very minimal government support and when you need anything, including having your baby, you have to bring all of your own supplies with you as the mother or patient. What she does and the number of people she cares for never ceases to amaze us. She is always training younger girls to assist her in non technical areas and we love that education component on top of everything else she does. To put this tiny 5-bed clinic’s impact into perspective: Rose administered 457 measles vaccines to kids under 1 alone, and delivered 417 babies last year!

We then walked over to St. Mathius Kalemba Secondary School, also in Nazigo, where we have been developing a Makerspace over the last 3 years. This is also home of the Fusbots, the 2nd robotics team we established, trained and equipped and have been sending to competitions with the team J-Robotics from Jinja SS. The current team captain, Donato, had a good meeting with us and we were able to find out where they are at, some of the triumphs and challenges that the tech students are experiencing at the school and of course how the competitions went this year! He was a great spokesperson and talking to him one on one without teachers around, meant it was a pretty honest perspective and also nothing surprising as the highs and lows were completely aligned with the highs and lows of these same programs back home. He arranged for us to return next Sunday when we will get to meet all of the interested team members as well as the Co-captain of the team who is a girl named Natasha and the teachers who are the club patrons. We need to get these kids motivated and are excited to help them get on track to overcome some of their issues with the team – some were easy fixes we were prepared for! It’s going to be a fun day next week!

Last but not least….as I am laying in bed being lulled to sleep by the usual street dog fight, a full on rat crawled in the bedroom window, climbed down the curtain and proceeded to JUMP off and run around the room knocking stuff over and making a whole lot of racket. From the safety of the bed net which I had to believe was an impenetrable force field, I bravely (frantically) messaged Alex, and he and Dennis (I am staying at their house) chased it out with sticks out my door and into the living room. It was a jumper they said and they chased it out the front door. Or so they tell me. I bought it, and slept just fine. I am sure they thought I was ridiculously dramatic.

Nanso Primary School: growth and improvement

13 07 2019

The first trip out to Nanso each year always brings some apprehension. We never know for certain how things are fairing in terms of the school building because the area is both remote and prone to unpredictable weather and harsh winds, especially during the rainy season. As we rounded the last big of shoreline in our boat and Nanso Primary was in view, we breathed a sign of relief because the roof, which is always the biggest concern was a-ok!

We were greeted at the shore by Headmaster John who had taken over from Joffery after many years of struggle at the request of the community. He immediately pointed out the glasses we had made for him lastsummer when we took him to the eye doctor. He mentioned  them 3 times during our visit actually – being able to see after so many years of nearsightedness was clearly pretty big! The results and changes over the year with John in charge have spoken for themselves and he has proven to be a strong leader for this community. There are 168 paying students currently attending the school and a number of others who still are not paying, making total enrollment around 200. This is up in terms of the number of students who’s families are paying their student fees by more than double! The teachers are getting paid as a result and their own initiative to create school gardens have been successful and there are some fruits and vegetables growing. We learned that this increase in payment rate/enrollment was largely due to their satisfaction the changes happening at the school and they are seeing payment for their children to attend as worthwhile.

There are a few things in need of repair on the building, The doors when they are left open during the hot weather to allow the breeze in off the water as well as more light often blow shut and slam hard into the door frame. The doors are made of metal as are the frames, but the concrete of the surrounding wall can’t take the impact and there are a number of doors that are coming off the frames because the concrete holding them in has cracked and broken off. This repair is concerning as it is fairly significant and not one we had anticipated at this time. It is a challenge to get someone to come all the way to Nanso to do a small job like this. So we may hold off and group it in with further work that we have been trying to fundraise for, but aren’t quite prepared for, which is teacher housing.

In many countries, Uganda included, it is customary for teaching staff to be provided with accommodation at the schools they work at. These “teacher houses” are very simple dwellings that are usually one room that may or may not be partitioned. At present, the teachers at Nanso are paying rent for such a home adjacent to the school at the shoreline. These rooms are the length of a mattress (so it touches 3 of the 4 walls), have a  wooden door that can be padlocked, no windows, a thing guage of sheet metal roofing and a board laid across two rocks for a table/bench/shelf. It is tiny and very hot. There are 4 of these connected in the building all occupied by teachers. With the school improving so much in terms of the level of success of the students, the fact that we now after 6 years have students sitting for their p7 exams and have our first 2 students joining secondary school this year we know the teachers that the new headmaster has hired are a big improvement. Keeping these teachers at the school is integral to enrollment growth at Nanso (there are hundreds of out of school youth around the school area) and seeing the attitudes towards education shifting. Building the teacher housing would really help sustain the momentum and keep the morale up. The morale of both the teaching staff and the students under the leadership of Headmaster John has visibly improved. The positivity at the school is something we have not seen in a long time at Nanso Primary. It is amazing what an impact a motivated and hard working leader can make!

So, we hope to be able to at least have some money left this summer to begin this construction and then continue to try and raise some money upon returning home to complete it by the end of the term. The total cost will be around 6-6.5 million shillings (2,200ish CAD) for 4 teacher houses that are a reasonable size AND have a window!!! We have done the measuring and are working on drafting up these plans now with the help of some of our Ugandan engineering students and under consultation and guidance from teachers in other communities that we work in. We’ll see what can be possible. We do have some bricks left over from adjusting the roof on the school the year before last and that’s a start!

We brought school maintenance supplies with us which included “slashers” and “pangas” (basically 2 types of machetes) for cutting the grass and keeping the weeds down. They teachers have the students do this task all around the school grounds and soccer pitch as a punishment for misbehaving in school! We also brought hoes for the school gardens at their request. Teacher and classroom supplies like new chalk brushes, staplers, hole punches, poster paper, markers and red and blue pens for the teacher workroom were also delivered to the staff. Several books were on their wish lists like atlases and instructional posters for the classrooms that correspond to their curriculum on topics like anatomy, pregnancy, parts of plants and flowers and maps of Africa and Uganda were all things we were able to source in Jinja town and deliver as well. The teachers were so pleased with all of this, and are looking forward to decorating their classrooms – we are excited to see it our next visit out there next week! As teachers we know the satisfaction and FUN of getting to decorate your space!!!

Off to a great start!

12 07 2019

Jet lag has been a lot to handle but with limited time and a lot of plans there’s not much choice…Here we go again!

The past 2 days have been all over the place getting things moving! Our school in Bugembe, Our Dad Elementary, is up to almost 600 registered students now, 598 to be exact! We have been in the process of replacing the temporary classroom structures with permanent buildings, and we have been working class by class. The classrooms are double classes that can be divided if need be. (and they need be – with some of the classes having over 100 students in them!)

This year the plan was for the grade 3 classroom, having completed 1 and 2 already as well as the office block. However, we revised this plan and it will now be the grade 7 classroom. The reason for this is that the grade 7s are situated to write their final government elementary exit exams from primary school and in order to do that at your own school rather than pay to sit for the exams at another school you have to have a dedicated room. Having a “school hall”, which is basically a multi-purpose room that can be setup and used for all kinds of different purposes including for school assemblies, student performances, graduation and other ceremonies/celebrations, and government examinations. Having this facility is mandatory to be a registered school in Uganda and is the only criteria we currently do not meet. So, by building a school hall that has a partition for a classroom, we can relocate the grade 7s, get the school registered and the students will be able to write their exams at their school. This is a cost savings as well since they do not have to travel and pay a school that has such a hall to write the tests there and it is also a potential money making opportunity as the many unregistered schools around Bugembe can send their students, for a fee, to write their exams at our school. All in all, this did not change the site plan and layout of the school itself as this was always in the plan, it just shifted around timelines. We were able to get this work started prior to arrival in Uganda as we have the same construction crew, architect and engineers as the previous years and trusted their work. So at the moment we have the foundation dug, the rebar made (by hand!) and have started pouring the cement. Bricks are arriving on site and have been a challenge to find enough that were good quality, but we seem to have found a decent source after a bit of looking around and the walls should begin within the next few days. The goal is to be ready to move the students into this room by the 22nd. (However, staying on schedule is a real challenge around here!)

The school’s office block is actually now 3 stories high and includes boys dorms on the top floor, the second floor is the STEAM centre (more on that later!) and the ground floor are teacher work rooms, accounting and the main office. There are 29 boys currently staying in the boys dormitory as well as a caretaker, and in a separate building behind the grade 4 and 5 classrooms (still temporary structures) is a girls dorm that houses 25 plus their caretaker. While walking through these tight, crowded student quarters we saw MANY familiar faces! We were surprised to find out that all of the children from the original orphanage that we started working with back in 2011, Sanctuary Children’s Home, are now all staying full time in dormitories!


The Just Cause Education Outreach STEAM (Science, Technology Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Centre, located for security on the second floor of the office building will be setup with some basic equipment and ready for use in a little over a week! It will bring the opportunity for much needed 21st century skills to be developed by the students at the schools and offer learning opportunities to the teachers as well as the Bugembe community at large with evening classes. For now we are starting with getting some computer stations set up, some robotics kits (the kids at this school LOVED the teach outreach using the Little Bits Classroom kits that our Hackerspace students facilitated 2 weeks ago!) We spent some time measuring and laying out the plan for it based on the equipment we were able to source and purchase and other items that were donated specifically with this facility in mind back in Canada. It was a massive relief when no questions were asked at the border coming in with 3 hockey bags full of what is probably some fairly bizzare looking tech equipment AND miraculously the only thing that was broken/damaged were 2 dollar store Tupperware containers we had packed in!

Back in Jinja at the Hackerspace, we had our 3 all star and original J-Robotics team students (our current STEM Outreach Crew) (soon to be University students…more on THAT later!) Picavet, Ronnie and Baker busy setting up our 4 RaspberryPi* stations for the JCEO STEAM Centre! This involved getting an operating system on, finding and installing appropriate levels of educational software and finding a way to get the robotics design and programming software onto them. This is proving to be a significant challenge that they are determined to find a work around for as these types of software are windows installs and you can’t use Windows on a RaspberryPi. We shall see what happens – suggestions are welcome! (the software is VEX IQ and Lego RCX)

While the older kids were hard at work with this Pi endeavor, the younger ones, Joseph, Hillarious (yup.) and Rooney were busy with a challenge of their own, building a tank-style robot that they are hoping to be done in time (designed, built and programmed) for Jinja Secondary School’s “Open Day” on Saturday. Hillarious skipped the entire day of school on Thursday (we were not impressed when we found out) in order to code. The kids are well on their way and had their VEX EDR tank-bot up and moving after 2 days of focused work by around 6pm! The newest members of the J-Robotics Team are pretty impressive kids!

*RaspberryPis are tiny computers, basically the size of a credit card, that were developed as a very cost effective and portable alternative to PCs. They are very popular for all kinds of purposes, and for us they will become student and teacher workstations and become the start of a computer lab. These computers will also be really useful to help with the accounting, attendance and record keeping. Providing modern education and engaging (non rote) learning opportunities as well as giving the chance for kids and teachers to develop computer skills is something that we know is of high value in Uganda and everywhere else in the world!

Open for biz!

29 06 2018

The construction work at Bugembe is finished: walls are up, verandah on, floors are poured and the temporary roof is on.

Why the temporary roof? Because we wanted to use the classrooms before the second story is put on the classroom block. The school is growing so fast!

The slab roof needed for the second floor will not happen anytime soon and we decided when we began this project to use the lessons we learned on building Nanso, our first school and build it room by room. So while the current temporary roof looks very patchwork, it was very cost effective and does the job. (Plus it’s using recycled materials!) This class is a huge upgrade in space for the grade 1s who are currently packed into one wooden makeshift room and really need two, not to mention it is a safe and weather-proof structure to learn in… The teachers and students are very eager to move in and will do so this week as soon as the chalk boards dry!

They grade 1s will be next door to the classroom we built last year which is currently occupied by 84 grade 2 students (and one teacher!). Good thing we made this room a double classroom anticipating a real need for space! Eventually there will be two rooms for each grade, but in the meantime this is how it is. Teachers are used to these class sizes and somehow have excellent classroom management despite the challenges of these numbers. Still, it’s not an ideal learn environment and it was addressed in the school design. Change is coming!

The next class to be built will be on the opposite side of the grade 2 class, which will be the corner room on the classroom block. So this school is designed to be shaped like an “L” on this side much like Nanso.

We spent some time discussing the plans with the future makerspace & computer lab that are part of the plan for this school. The rooms for these purposes are built now and located on the second floor of of the office block. This was selected during the planning as the most secure location. We were mostly concerned with looking at layout and where the electrical conduit will run before they plaster and seal the inside of the walls in these rooms. It’s really exciting to be building this school to include modern learning spaces and this will be our third of such facilities. However, let’s not rush, we are still at least a year away from this being ready!

Our belief in equity and not limiting opportunity for students in Uganda due to lack of access to facilities and equipment is a big part of this school project. Equipping students with relevant modern skills is vital to progress everywhere, and Africa is no exception. Combined access to education and technology empowers youth to solve problems.

Working on reducing class size is also a significant part of the development plan in place for Our Dad Elementary and one that we are working closely with director Michael to make happen sooner than later.

We are also looking ahead to developing the technology spaces of the school facility to offer access to the community in computer & tech skills training. This was the other reason for choosing to locate this part of the school away from the regular classrooms. We anticipate this after school hours/weekend programming will be aimed at older and out-of-school youth in the community in Bugembe much like the Jinja space.

Quality education opportunity and improvement is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (#4) for 2030, which we are proud to say aligns with JCEO’s vision and goals as well. Good things are happening – and it’s thanks to the generosity of donors, volunteers and organizations that believe in our work & support us. Thank you. On this same note, we also really need to thank our families and friends for being such long term (endless) support to us and the work we do with Just Cause. Without a great team on board none of what we do is possible. Thank you to all who have been involved – together what we’ve made happen is pretty amazing & we can’t wait to see what we can do next!

Vision & a vision

27 06 2018

We took teacher John from Nanso Primary to Jinja town to have a proper eye exam. The results were some significant astigmatism in one of his eyes and nearsightedness in both eyes. He really needed eyeglasses and we were happy to help him.

It’s hard to imagine that he has gone for 38 years without seeing an actual eye doctor and tried to find his own glasses which were reading glasses to fix his vision. This was obviously not sufficient so we ordered him the perscription and he happily selected some frames. He was very emotional as he looked at the chart on the wall through the testing machine and again as we left after we placing the order for the glasses. He was clearly very grateful, which wasn’t the point – we can’t picture trying to do our job as teachers without being able to see – that’s just not okay! Alex is going to bring them to Nanso by boat himself on Tuesday next week when they’re ready. The whole part and parcel was about $100 Canadian dollars (exam, perscription lenses & frames) which is way out of reach for the majority of people who need vision correction in Uganda; a sad reality. We are happy we could help and look forward to his big moment next week when he can finally see clearly and look forward to his continued service as a teacher at our school in Nanso. Anyone with eye problems can relate to how big of a deal this day will surely be and what it’s like to get your first glasses! 👓😎

We then headed over to check in with the kids at Hackerspace and found Picavet and Adelaide absorbed in the drone, Shadrach, Hillarious (yup.) and Lawrence revising their robot design and Baker, Ronnie and Pius working away on their current mobile app project. In terms of the app, we knew they had one ready with almost 2 years of ongoing effort, and that they had been working hard to have it ready before we left in the hopes of us getting it up on Google Play for them. So, thanks to a donation specifically earmarked for the J-Robotics students, we were able to make this happen.

You can’t sign up without a credit card so in addition to the financial setback had they been able to somehow come up with the money, they wouldn’t have been able to follow through as credit cards aren’t really an option in Uganda for most. The programming students were pumped to be an official startup biz & offical app developers at last when we hit ‘submit’ on their Google Play Developer account! They will have 2 completed apps posted (both security related – one for shared phones and one for personal phyaical safety) in the next 10 days. We’re proud of them for this initiative and the hard work it took to get to this level. It’s great to help them take this step towards achieving one of their big goals! We’ll share more on their apps as soon as they’re live – they really are quite interesting! In short, both of these apps address concerns relevant to Ugandans and provide solutions to real problems… Created by Ugandan youth. We love this!

The power of passion, community & mentorship

25 06 2018

There were drones, there were robots, videography, photography, interviews, demos, teaching, learning and a whole lot of fun! A day that none of us will forget!

Emma from Malaika Media in Kampala was the person we reached out to that got back to us and helped us with the missing drone parts last week. (This surprised us as it was!) While we were at his office, we invited him to come visit the students, see their diy drone & robotics projects and check out the Hackerspace where we run our programs….and asked for a flying lesson before the students tried on their own! He was actually interested and even offered to bring his professional drone to let the kids fly it for practice and a media crew to document their story! He said it depended on his schedule and we weren’t sure how serious he was… But Saturday night, he messaged us and as it turned out, he was serious and Sunday afternoon was amazing for all of us!

Emma shared his experience with us and let the students fly his Phantom 4 all over the Hackerspace! We were nervous at first because it’s a professional drone and very valuable annnnd these are kids…. with no experience… We were kind of shocked that he just handed the controls over to them with confidence after brief instructions. They had no problem catching on and were airborne almost instantly! All we could say while seeing this go down was “OMG this is actually happening right now!” (It’s pretty impressive to watch this thing fly)

Watching Emma interact with the team and seeing their faces as they listenex to him and then got to take flight was just amazing for us to sit back and watch. Many of the students took an interest in the sweet camera and video equipment that Michael from Malaika Media was using to shoot the scene and got to ask him lots of questions and check out his gear too. Also very cool for them as it was some very new high tech equipment they had never seen! Double win!

So the day was what we have been striving to find to give to our students – authentic experiences, real people, and skilled mentorship, from Ugandan role models and professionals. We want to see them both encouraged and inspired. It’s just so difficult to find here, so this connection gave far beyond a drone flight!

Emma and his crew took interviews with many of the students and us. They listened and documentated the story of Just Cause Education Outreach and the individual journies of our students over the last 3 years with our programs and with the Hackerspace. We shared the connection between our organization, Johnny and Hacker’s For Charity and how together we’ve been able to empower kids with technology programs both in the Hackerspace and outside in the surrounding regions – places where youth have minimal/no exposure to technology and how it can help them reach new potential and futures. We know that all the youth here really need is access and opportunity and they have the interest, drive and talent to develop tremendous skills in STEAM fields. They want to learn and are very aware that tech can leapfrog development in their country.

It was moving to see the kids have the chance to use their voice and we were so proud at the things they spoke about during their interviews. (Of course we were eavesdropping the whole time) Blessing was great at getting the kids to speak freely!

Some of the things we heard were along these lines:

What does technology mean to you?

“It means a better future with skills that I can use to get a job or start a business”

“I’m not interested in football like most so for me technology means my passion”

“Technology will mean progress for my country and the ideas I can create come from it”

What is your message to girls your age with technology?

“That we need them to be involved”

“They have very many ideas”

Why do you like working with this type of equipment/place?

“Because it makes me think and I get to use topics I learn in science and math classes”

“This place gives us opportunities and skills that we can’t learn in our regular school”

It’s not often that those students with a passion for technology get the chance to shine and have a captive audience who can “talk shop” so this was a very special day. They asked tonnes of questions about drones and how to approach their project that actually by the end of the day meant they could actually get their quadcopter project in motion! What a great day!

They also got to show off their current projects with robots and app development. While they continued flying Emma’s drone around, Emma was absorbed in driving their VEX bot around the place. It was a fun exchange to watch!

Malaika Media is going to produce a video from the interviews and footage they took during the visit and share the photos with us so we can share our story in a way we haven’t before! We are so proud of the kids and very thankful to Emma, Blessing and Michael for their time and mentorship and for coming all the way to Jinja to hang out with us! We still can’t believe our luck in this connection with these awesome people!