Scaling pre-university STEM enrichment from community to national reach
Until recently, most students in East African schools had only books to study science&engineering, due to limited access to educational labs and real lab equipment. The Ethiopian government had a good plan to upgrade and expand the labs in their many universitiess, but STEM education in primary and secondary schools was barely considered.
The situation dramatically changed in 2009 when the GFCT Trust (the predecessor to STEM Synergy) constructed its first special-purpose STEM Center, near a primary school in Bishoftu city, in the industrial corridor of Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa. No multi-discipline pre-university STEM Center had ever been established in Subsahara Africa, so we created a new practical extendable building design that would house labs, administration, equipment storage, and a large auditorium suitable for science fairs and community meetings.
Foka-STEM-Center construction designer Ababe Eshete
The entire experience was a bold experiment. Foka STEM Center would be built on a limited land area carved from a primary school’s playing field. We carefully designed the building to hold four engineering labs (electronics, mechanical, optical, and computerµcontroller.) Once the building design was approved by the municipality, we built the structure using environmentally-friendly locally-sourced methods. We partnered with local businesses to manufacture good-quality lab furniture. We directly imported the lab equipment, and assembled the labs. Our local team created the curricula, then partnered with the municipality’s education department. Together, we recruited many interested students to attend our 10-week enrichment classes, which operated throughout the day, in harmony with the students’ school attendance and homework.
Foka Science & Engineering Center, the first STEM Center in Ethiopia
The results were so spectacular that the Foka STEM Center sent shock waves through Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education. The government realized it now had a real replicable solution to offer hands-on STEM education to the nation. Moreover, each site would be individually expandable, to meet the needs of the local community as well as foster local innovation. Further, every STEM Center in this growing web could each host national forums and events.
During Foka’s initial electronics lab term, 7th graders, December 2012
To date, we have established thirteen (13) operational STEM Centers around Ethiopia, and five (5) more in neighboring countries. From these facilities and their spin-off programs, hundreds of thousands of students, teachers, and community participants have benefitted. We are especially proud that an equal ratio of girls and boys have participated in our STEM Center programs. The number of labs per STEM Center ranges from two to ten. The facility is called a “Mini-STEM Center” if it’s initially established with two engineering labs (usually electronics and virtual computer), and the host community provides the building and an available auditorium.
Juba University STEM Center (South Sudan), opening day, 2017
Each STEM Center performs mentoring using a combination of system-wide curricula and local specialties. System-wide curricula includes electronics engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer skills instruction. Examples of local specialty curricula includes agriculture biology and space science. STEM Synergy continues to establish more STEM Centers, always searching for local vendors, increased efficiency, and coordinated feedback.
All STEM Centers are formally and legally handed over to their local associated university or community. We feel that such handovers demonstrate true sustainability.
Ethiopia STEM and Mini-STEM Centers
Name of Center
Person in charge
Foka Science and Engineering Center
Kallamino STEM Center
Gondar Univ Science Center
Bahir Dar Univ STEM Incubation center
Bahir Dar, Amhara
Dr. Tesfaye Shiferaw
AASTU Univ STEM center
Addis Ababa, chartered city
Addis Ababa Science Museum
Addis Ababa, Federal
ASTU Univ STEM center
Hawassa University STEM center
Hawassa, Southern (SNNPR)
Jigjiga Mini-STEM Center
Jigjiga, Ethiopian Somali State
Asaita Univ Mini-STEM Center
Assosa Univ Mini-STEM Center
Wollega Univ STEM center
Dr. Tifsehit Solomon
Kotebe Univ Science Shared Campus
Dr. Sileshi Yitbarek
Liqa School Mini STEM Center
Ethiopia Academy of Sciences
Addis Ababa Institute of Technology
Debremarkos STEM Center
|Dr. Tafere Melaku|
|Dilla, Souhern (SNNPR)||Dr. Firehiwot Endal|
(R&T Xfer VP)
930507192 – or – 982003791
|Dire Dawa chartered city||Dr. Asfaw Kebede|
(Asst Prof Hydrology & Water Engnrng)
|Kebridahar U STEM Center||Kebri Dahar,|
Harar STEM Center
Woldiya U STEM Center
|Dr. Dawit Melese|
NOTE : All of the STEM Centers listed above were created and funded by STEM Synergy’s founder by Gelfand Family Charitable Trust, which preceded STEM Synergy. The STEM Centers were subsequently donated to their respective municipalities or universities. STEM Synergy’s role is mainly to coordinate those Centers’ activities and support the last eight mini -STEM centers for the coming two years.