On Youth Day yesterday, 150 school girls in Cape Town celebrated by looking forward towards their futures and upwards into space.
The young women took part in an intensive workshop that is part of the Medo Space, the only one of its kind in Africa. During the workshop, an appearance by South Africa Mars One candidate Adriana Marais left the girls inspired and a little awed at the prospect that if she goes to Mars it is to never to return to earth, but to create a new frontier for the human race.
During the workshop, known as Space Prep, the girls used home grown South African technology to build small, programmable rovers from scratch. These were coded by the girls themselves, initially to move in patterns, although later they will learn to use motion sensors and how to add light and sound sensors to the rovers.
The girls were able to take their rovers home and can able to plug them into a smart phone, PC or laptop and connect them to an app and continue coding them at will.
The aim of the day was to introduce young women to electronics and the basics of practical science.
The Medo Space programme aims at empowering young women by introducing them to essential science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills while igniting an interest in careers in these subjects.
The best learners in the programme will eventually help in designing the payload for Africa’s first ever privately-owned satellite launching early 2017.
The decade-long programme addresses the skills shortage in South Africa relating to STEM – which will make up 80% of future jobs in the country as we move forward into the fourth industrial revolution.