www.ceramics.org | American Ceramic Society Bulletin, Vol. 100, No. 8 48 Celebrating 100 years Despite concerted efforts to adopt the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs),1 Africa still lags the rest of the world. In fact, 90% of Africans currently live in extreme pov- erty,2 which affects access to quality edu- cation, good health, and other SDGs. Although the literacy rate has steadily increased to 66% over the last four decades,3 access to quality education, par- ticularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, remains low. Furthermore, institutions for higher education continue to endure inadequate access to teaching and learning resources, such as laboratory equipment, internet, human resources, and physical infra- structure. This access barrier inevitably compromises the quality of teaching and learning of science, technology, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, which demand additional teaching and learning tools for effective learning. In 2013, Veronica Augustyn (NC State University, U.S.) and John-Paul Eneku (Makerere University, Uganda) initiated a collaborative effort with six partner universities to enhance the quality of STEM learning in African uni- versities.4 Called the SciBridge project (scibridge.org), this student-led organiza- tion develops low-cost experiment kits focusing on energy technologies. SciBridge volunteers in the U.S. form groups specific to each experiment kit and proceed with three stages of kit development. First, students learn the basic scientific principles and back- ground associated with the technology of interest. This information is then used to design a prototype kit that enables students to observe the relationship between material properties and device performance. Once a successful pro- totype is established, students prepare an experiment manual complete with fundamental scientific principles, experi- ment procedures, and questions for the participants. Finally, kits containing the necessary supplies, experiment manual, and video tutorial of the experiment are packaged with enough materials to support a full classroom. Faculty members at African universities coordinate SciBridge activities that are integrated into undergraduate curricula. Students gain hands-on experi- ence with the materials through the instructor-led experiments, strengthening their understand- ing and building a solid founda- tion for future studies. Access to equip- ment provided in the SciBridge kits also enables research capabilities beyond the classroom as students perform research at the bachelor’s and master’s level in energy-related areas such as solar electri- cal performance of different leaves and low-cost technology to harness solar energy. To reach more students and class- rooms, SciBridge has added four partner universities and has partnered with other organizations offering similar initiatives, such as JUAMI,5 SciFro,6 and WS2,7 by contributing experiment kits, learning materials, and kit development support. The approach that SciBridge uses for kit design and exchange broadly impacts students in both Africa and the U.S. More learning resources in the classrooms at African universities create environments that are conducive to strengthening the learner–instructor rapport. In the U.S., the students that are developing kits learn the scientific principles while gaining leader- ship skills and research experience as they go through the scientific process. Bridging students from the U.S. and Africa broad- ens individual perspectives and encourages new possibilities for research collabora- tions and careers in STEM. References 1 UN General Assembly, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 21 October 2015, A/RES/70/1, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/57b6e3e44. html [accessed 25 August 2021] 2 The Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (2020): Africa SDG Index and Dashboards Report 2020. Kigali and New York: SDG Center for Africa and Sustainable Development Solutions Network. 3 World Bank (2021): Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above) Sub-Saharan Africa. Retrieved on July 23, 2021. Available from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/ SE.ADT.LITR.ZS?locations=ZG 4 V. Augustyn & J. P. Eneku, “Building the SciBridge between Africa and the United States,” Science & Diplomacy, Vol. 4, No. 4 (2015). 5 https://www.juami.org 6 http://www.scifro.org 7 https://ws2global.org/about-us Benard Tabu is a doctoral student in mechanical and energy engineering at University of Massachusetts Lowell, working under Prof. Juan Pablo Trelles. His research focuses on applications of low-temperature atmospheric plasma for chemical synthesis, particularly solid waste recovery. He was formerly an assistant lecturer in the Department of Physics at Gulu University (Uganda), where he served as SciBridge Coordinator. Michael Spencer is a Ph.D. candidate in materials science and engineering at NC State University, working under Prof. Veronica Augustyn. His research focuses on understanding the influen- ce of confinement on electrochemical reactivity. He served on the SciBridge executive committee for three years and contributed to developing two experi- ment kits. 100 deciphering the discipline Benard Tabu and Michael Spencer Guest columnists A regular column offering the student perspective of the next generation of ceramic and glass scientists, organized by the ACerS Presidents Council of Student Advisors. Figure 1. Schematic illustrating the SciBridge develop- ment and implementation process. Innovative approach to learning and teaching of sciences in Africa Credit: Michael Spencer
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