Miss.Africa Digital Program recently caught up with Engineer Marwa Samih Seoudy, Ideas Gym STEM Capacity Building and Co-founder; Egyptian start-up  and part of Al.Searag for content and Innovation Services that  promotes coding and robotics using new education methods to engage and inspire more girls in STEM. She speaks about their program in our interview below

1. Can you tell us about this project that has applied for the 2019 Miss.Africa Digital Seed
Fund Awards?

The proposed project is targeting 14+ years old girls from Egypt (with focs on girls from underprivileged villages and cities), the program also will be opened to African girls who can understand English language.The seed fund will be used to cover grants for the girls to enter an online virtual robot training course. The course duration is 14 weeks. The grant program is run in two cycles. Cycle one starts from October 2019 till end of January 2020 . Cycle two from Start of February 2020 till end of May 2020.

2. What are some of the challenges you are trying to address with your project?
According to Piaget the father of constructivism: Every normal student is capable of good mathematical reasoning if attention is directed to activities of his/her interest, and if by this method the emotional inhibitions that too often given him/her a feeling of inferiority in lessons in this area are removed. In most mathematical lessons the whole difference lies in the fact that the student is asked to accept from outside an already entirely organized intellectual discipline which he/she may or may not understand. (Piaget, 1976) Most of the MOOCs and STEM focused websites are focused to deliver the information to the students without assessing the interest of the enrolled student. The analytics are used to judge the students more than providing any kind of scaffolds.

I will explain how we solved this by giving an example by our proposed course. We provide a 14 weeks course teaching lego robots online to 13years-19years old students. We used the Virtual Robot Tool Kit to overcome the high prices of the LEGO kits which is considered a challenge for many children to enjoy learning how to code and control a LEGO Robot. We designed the modules so that each module contains an assignment, a teaser and a weekly webinar. The webinars were based on dialog format between the instructor and the students.

3. How are you bringing innovative approaches to these problems?
In the field of educational robots the nearest programs designed for k12 are either offline and requires to have the kits as LEGO robots. When to comes to e-learning the students use online videos provided by different YouTube channels. There are a couple of courses on Udemy but also uses the video format, which means the instructor is talking in the video and the students are just receiving the information.

The video format and the lack of interaction between the instructor and the students make it almost impossible for the students to learn troubleshooting or to have the sense of a hands-on experience without having the kits physically. We overcame this in our program by using a simulator and more than 13years of experience in working with education robots. Our experience with the students and educational robots as lego helped us to transform the training from the real world to the virtual world using technology as a Learning Management System, online conferences and simulation.

4. How does it feel to gain international recognition for your work?
I am motivated to the idea of Miss Digital Africa as I consider myself a feminist this award is dear to me. I have won in 2018 Woman In ICT award from the Egyptian Ministry of Education and UNDP. Also I have co-founder Women in Engineering IEEE Affinity group in 2006 and She Made IT in Egypt. Any work related to women and STEM makes me thrilled to serve more in the field.

5. Can you explain why skills for women in tech is so important?
Women and girls mainly prefer tinkering and hands-on rather than analytical analysis. We do things by our hands all the time. Gaining technical skills through tinkering and visualization is highly important for women to open new doors for them. Any technology by the end is used by men and women therefore the female touch and input is highly important in the design process of that technology. Moreover, having more women in the technology field helps boost the African economy and uses our youth power to the max.

6. What in your opinion should be done to address the digital skills gap in Africa?
The skills gap is wide everywhere and not in Africa only. In my opinion we need to be honest with ourselves when it comes to selecting the type of solution we are applying with the current generations. The main problem I see in Africa when it comes to apply a solution not relevant to our culture because it is just came from a westren country. Africans are aware of their issues and they have the best solutions if we just knew how to collaborate
and build trust.

Marwa Samih Seoudy, Ideas Gym, Egypt.

Engineer Marwa Samih Seoudy is the STEM Capacity Building and Co-founder at Ideas Gym. 

Ideas Gym is an Egyptian start-up  and part of Al.Searag for content and Innovation Services that  promotes coding and robotics using new education methods to engage and inspire more girls in STEM