A group of teenage South African girls are creating Africa’s first private satellite. The satellite will be launched in the first quarter of 2016. Pupils from across Cape Town attended the launch of the ambitious project, the brainchild of the Meta Economic Development Organisation (MEDO).
“The programme is crucial in reversing the legacy of apartheid which excluded maths and science from the curriculum of non-white children,” the company said in a statement.
MEDO CEO, Judi Sandrock, explained that a shortage of technical skills required for building businesses motivated the company to launch a science, technology, engineering and maths focused programme.
“The intention of this programme is not to be a once-off. It is to be the start of at least a decade-long drive to inspire young people to enter the science and technical fields,” she said.
The Medo programme has been designed to inspire young women to consider science, technology, engineering, and maths as a career.
At the launch, the girls were introduced to the programme through an interactive workshop.
Star Trek week-long camps are part of the first stage of the project which introduces the women to electronics and the basics of practical science. They will take place during the holiday following the end of the third term, where participants will design their satellite payload experiments and test them using high altitude weather balloons. In December, extended school holiday internships to finalise payload designs will take place, and the satellite will be built for launch.
Focused on creating their own jiggy bot – an electrical device which uses different mechanisms to light up a bulb, vibrate, and move – the goggle-wearing teenagers then assembled and soldered their creations with meticulous precision.
“It’s amazing to see how all these bits come together to create something so technical and amazing,” Pelican Park High School pupil, Siddiqah Latief, enthused.
“It has never been my favourite subject, but I am starting to love science. I always thought it was for nerdy boys. Now I am thinking of making this my career.”
Nina-Rose Clarke of Pinelands High School agreed, saying: “I never thought building things could be this interesting. I am loving this experience. It’s so exciting to be exposed to more than just drawing and studying ideas. Constructing stuff is so much better.”
With programmes like these, it is expected that more African women, like the three innovative South Africans, will be more willing to consider a career in male-dominated fields.