A center for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education in Jimma partnered up with Jimma University Community School to enroll students for STEM courses. Two years into its formation, Dynamo Robotics Academy, the only registered STEM education center in Southwest Ethiopia, will be enrolling students at Jimma Community School for courses in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics alongside their regular education.
The Academy, opened up by graduates of the Institute of Technology at Jimma University, has been providing courses aimed at developing innovative technology, software programming, and robotics. The courses are delivered through different short-term trainings to young students through grades 1-12.
“The aim is to be able to solve problems in our community through innovation,” said Abdurahaman Shemsedin, CEO and co-founder of the Academy. “We combine creative processes and methods for inquiry and investigation. The goal here is to invoke critical thinking and problem-solving skills in our students.”
Since its establishment, the Academy has certified nearly 400 students in two rounds of graduation; students are expected to produce either a hardware prototype or software design upon completion of their courses.
Its new collaboration with Jimma Community School, which is run by the University, will expand its reach and bring in the School’s grade 7-12 school body under its education system which includes robotics, website development, cyber security, and IoT (Internet of Things) as well as a mentorship program.
STEM education has come to the forefront in the 21st century worldwide and is at a nascent stage in Ethiopia. The Ministry of Innovation and Technology embarked on building its first Innovation & Technology Talent Development Institute in 2020 and had developed a curriculum designed to serve as a complementary educational program.
Similarly, the Ministry of Education recently introduced its National Framework for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Centers. The Framework is intended to ensure a uniform integration of STEM education and training programs across all levels of education.
The multidisciplinary team at Robotics comes from different backgrounds; biomedical, computer, and mechanical engineering, computer science, business management, AI engineering, and programming.
The roll-out of STEAM education hasn't been without its challenges, explains the Academy’s CEO.
“Our community doesn’t have much awareness of STEM education,” he said. “They do not understand its value.”
STEM education, as a laboratory-based education, also requires a higher investment when compared to regular classroom learning. At the onset, Dynamo was established at an initial capital of 200,000 Br. but costs of the school for laboratory equipment and devices have grown in years since, according to the CEO.
Fetulhak Abdurahman, faculty head of Electrical and Computing Engineering at Jimma University emphasizes the importance of STEM education.
“STEM education teaches children about the power of technology and innovation,” he said. “Students embrace new ideas, instead of being hesitant or fearful. As the world becomes increasingly dependent on technology, it plays a role in giving this advantage to its students.”
Taking into consideration the importance of STEM education and the opportunities it presents to younger students in the city, Jimma University has a plan to upgrade and expand this educational approach , according to the faculty head.
“It’s a very early stage in Jimma,” said Fetulhak. “We need to work on establishing more STEM centers to help take students’ skills to the next level.