Back in action!

Despite the seemingly endless long summer days, term-time is creeping up on us and it’s getting to be time for the FIR teams to pull their socks up and get back to business. Some exciting things are in the timeline!

Parliamentary Reception

Everything has been confirmed for our post-trip reception in the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood (Edinburgh). Sponsored by Sandra White MSP (Kelvin) the evening has already attracted a lot of interest from a variety of parties, and looks to be filling up nicely. The Glasgow team plan to present a breakdown of the project so far with photographs and videos, as well as providing hard copies of their report. CH2M are once again covering the catering, so it looks to be a great night! See below for details, any interest is welcome as long as you RSVP to the email address given.

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As the reception is going to have to be held in Edinburgh, the Glasgow team are also looking to host another event in Glasgow, but this is TBC.

IESIS James Watt Dinner 2016

Another evening for the Glasgow team to look forward to is the annual IESIS James Watt Dinner in October. We have been invited along and allocated some time to speak during the dinner, as well as being given a stall for us to use as a display and allow people to hear more about the project. In addition, we are having our photographs displayed on the big screen before the dinner, and a page in the programme for us to write about who we are.

This is a great opportunity for the team to bump heads with industry and organisations alike who may take an interest in our work, and IESIS are keen for us to promote ourselves at the event. Hopefully we will not only be able to widen our general audience and bring more attention to the cause, but this also provides a platform for us to make further links with interested partners.

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In other news, we are very proud of our recent university graduates from the Rwandan team at KIST, URwanda:

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(L-R: Confidence [Mechanical & Energy], Alice [Civil], Denyse [Electrical & Electronics], Pascascie [Mech & Energy])

Sadly this means the girls will probably be too busy being qualified engineers to be able to help us again next year, but we are very proud of them and hope to work with them again in the future.

Otherwise, we are in the process of preparing follow-up material for the schools we worked with in Rwanda and hope to have this sent out in the next month or so. These materials will contain information about what our workshops were about, the purpose of our visit and further information regarding education beyond high school in Rwanda or abroad.

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We hope to see some of you in September, if not another time, and we thank you for continuing to read about us and support the project.

 

Lots of love,

The FIR Team

 

 

 

A Summer Update from the FIR Glasgow Team

Now fully recovered from what turned out to be some of the most tiring weeks of our lives, the FemEng Glasgow team are looking to what our future holds. Although we achieved our initial goal this June, managing to administer career advice and practical activity workshops to over 500 young girls in Rwanda, there is so much more that can be done. With a year’s experience under our belts, the team are hopeful that next year holds amazing potential to outshine these achievements. Also, given the extent of positive feedback received before, during and after our visit to Kigali, it is clear that our mission is a sound one and that it serves a real purpose.

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After debriefing with John Briggs, the team are now working on compiling a solid report in time for our Parliamentary reception at the end of September. The aim of this document will be to inform sponsors and our other supporters about the details of the work so far – accounts, breakdowns of the practical activities, discussions about conversations we had with various different demographics, etc. – and copies will be available to take away or to order.

Further discussion has also to be had with Glasgow City Council and SmartSTEMS, as to how FemEng in Glasgow can be fully utilised to fulfil the needs of the young population here too. The response from the University of Glasgow and from the Incorporation of Hammermen of Glasgow since our return has been great and we are confident our other sponsors will feel similarly.

For now – good luck to the FemEng members across the globe starting internships, graduate jobs and further study already. We do have day jobs as well you know! Further updates to come as things progress.

Lots of love,

The FemEng in Rwanda team

 

Happy #NWED2016 everyone!

The FIR team are back in Europe already – by the end of today we will have been in 5 different countries, but for now we are waiting for our final leg to take us back to bonny Scotland!

Although exhausted, all those involved in the project can reflect on how amazing the project was for everyone, and really how important what we are doing is for the girls we managed to meet with in the short time we were able to visit Rwanda. Now it’s time for a deep breath and a step back from the hustle and bustle of the project as we make the transition back into our Glasgow routine. Though our time in Rwanda has come to an end, there is a strong feeling among all team members that this is most certainly not the end of the project. You can take the girls out of Rwanda but you can’t take Rwanda out of the girls!

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Last Day in Kigali!

It’s our last day in Kigali! The team can’t quite believe how fast our time here has gone. Jess and Tina visited the Genocide Memorial Museum in the morning while the rest of the Glasgow team took the opportunity to have a lie in before heading to KIST to pack up our workshop materials. The rest of the day was spent packing and buying last minute souvenirs from Caplaki Market. A few of the girls even tested out the local mototaxis! It was very sad saying our final goodbyes to all the people who have looked after us and made our stay here so much better than we could of anticipated. Special thanks to Josephine Malonza for heading up our project here in Rwanda and being like a mum to all of us during this time.

There may not be much from us for a couple of days as we travel back to Glasgow, but we look forward to sharing more details and photos of our experience as soon as we have recovered from 24hrs of travelling!

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Lots of love from,

The FemEng in Rwanda team

Days 18 & 19 – last workshops

Monday was the last day of workshops. We had La Columbiere school coming in the morning. For the last time we presented Aerospace, Renewable Energy, Design and Biomedical engineering workshops.  After that we were waiting for the Minister of Education but he never arrived. After the lunch break we did a debrief of the whole project with the team. Loads of ideas and suggestions were made that will improve the project next year. We discussed the impact we made on the high school girls and what we learned from the project as well. The sum up of this debrief will be included in the future post. In the evening Glasgow team went out for a dinner at the Carwash and celebrated the last day of workshops.

 

On Tuesday morning Professor Phil Cotton (Vice Chancellor of University of Rwanda) visited us and brought certificates of participation for the whole team. We showed him quick presentations of our workshops and he was very impressed. An obligatory photo was taken and after that we moved on to the fun part. We played music and shared snacks. Rwandan girls gave us earrings as gifts which was incredibly nice. After few hours of making bracelets, pleading random braids and taking loads of photos, Ellen gave everyone the certificates signed by Phil Cotton and herself. Couple of people had to leave early and it was really sad to say “bye”. We have no idea when are we going to see each other next time. A couple of girls from Glasgow team decided to get braids made and we are currently waiting for the braid maker to arrive. To be continued…

Day 17 – Visit to Akagera

A 5.30am rise marked our earliest start yet. It was the day we’d all been eagerly anticipating since day 1 of the trip: the visit to Akagera National Park. A breakfast of fruits, eggs and strong African tea and coffee was served around the outdoor table at the Eco-lodge in the still, chilly darkness before sunrise. We were then lucky enough to watch as the red morning sun rose from behind the rolling hills, indicating that it was time for us to head on our way.

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Arriving at Akagera, we met with our safari guide who would ride along with us on our 6 hour drive through the park. As we began our journey we were amazed by the diverse range of wildlife we were met with. It was a truly breathtaking experience at times, the likes of which none of us had ever experienced before.
Standing on a vast beach observing the hippos submerged to their eyes in water while 30 or more baboons ran past, some carrying their infants on their backs. Looking down at the beady eyes of a deadly black mamba snake coiled suspiciously still by the roadside. Watching as giraffes, zebras and antelope went about their daily routine and catching a rare glimpse of an elephant washing itself in the distance.

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The day felt all the more special after a tough but rewarding week of work. Sadly, this long awaited day is also a reminder that we only have a few remaining days here in Rwanda. Tomorrow we are expecting an official visit at the University from the Minister of Education, Papias Musafiri who originally invited our team here to Kigali. This will be will be very significant in raising the project’s profile here in Rwanda. We will also be running workshops in the morning for La Colombiere school.After scrubbing today’s layer of dust off of us, we are refreshed and ready to tackle the last few project days.

Day 14.. and 15.. and 16

Amidst the hullabaloo of the second half of our workshop week, it’s been a struggle to muster the energy to sit and write about it. Thankfully we’ve now been able to take a breather in a place called Kayonza, and we are really excited about what the past few days have brought!

Thursday and Friday were surprisingly smooth running – a mixture of timeliness and the fact we had run the workshops so many times already really showed in these two days, and all the team members were well versed in what to say and how to make sure the children were able to engage. It is rewarding to see the Rwandan students taking workshops into their own hands and knowing that we assisted them in reaching this point. We will compile a report with final numbers of the numbers of children we have seen once we return, but it is a lot, and often more than we expected!

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A nice touch to the end of the week was also the chances we got to bond with the Rwandan girls. We took it in turns to showcase Scottish and Rwandan traditional dancing, and on Friday we gave the Rwandan team some Scottish tablet to try. Mixed responses! We have been so busy that we haven’t really had a chance to share our cultures with each other, but we plan to do more of this in the last few days before we leave.

On Friday we also got to take over the University of Glasgow Snapchat, and we managed to reach over 1000 people through the little videos we took of our day. Although it doesn’t seem the most professional marketing method, we know that this gave many people a clear insight into what the project is about and we have downloaded a full version of the videos taken that we can upload to our other media.

This morning we had an early rise so we could go to Kayonza in the East of Rwanda. We are staying at the Discover Rwanda Kayonza Eco Lodge, which is linked with many of the sustainable activities in the region, such as cow milking, coffee plantations and basket weaving. The Women for Women centre, which trains women to work for themselves, is attached to the lodge, but sadly was closed for the weekend (although we did get a chance to purchase some of their goods!). We trekked around the countryside in the morning to visit the coffee growers and washing centres, met the women who sort through the coffee beans, and got a look around the different pipes and troughs used to prepare the beans. Whilst waiting for our bus driver to come and get us, we ended up stuck in the centre of a small village, surrounded by what seemed like the entire village population. We got a few low-fives from some of the kids, but most of the inhabitants just seemed to be making fun of us, for reasons we may never know. It was very interesting to be in the midst of more rural areas, and we also got to meet some very cute goats.

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Next stop was IPRC East, a technical school and college with many branches all around Rwanda. We had previously had a visit from some girls from IPRC Kigali, so we knew a little about what the school was like. They gave us lunch and then we were taken to a classroom where we could meet some of the girls studying there. Due to altercations in the canteen (?) and a gender-based violence workshop that had happened in the morning, we were waiting quite a while for the room to fill up. However, when it did, we had over 50 girls in this one room, and all were eager to learn more about us and ask for advice about their careers. We introduced the topics we had been presenting in our workshops the past week, and then split the room into groups for us to have more informal chats with the girls. Many of them studied General Mechanics or Motorvehicle Mechanics, and were all very passionate about it. Two girls in my group wanted to own their own garage! The desire for self-employment and entrepreneurship was great to see, and although we aren’t exactly trained in giving career advice, it was nice to have the opportunity to inspire the girls to search more for themselves. We tried to get the point across that they can do whatever they want to, and that they should make sure to really investigate the opportunities that lie ahead of them. With no powerpoints or workshop materials we did initially feel a little lost, but sometimes just having conversations is stimulating enough and the girls we spoke to seemed quite happy about it too!

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We returned to the lodge and checked out the gift shop before going to milk a nearby cow. Again it was nice to be amongst the villagers and more low-fives were bestowed. It turns out that milking a cow isn’t the easiest skill! But we got to keep the milk and drink it after our dinner. Our bedrooms tonight are dubbed “Deluxe Tents”, the term “glamping” comes to mind, especially as the tents have bathrooms with running water! After an insightful day, the girls have all gone to bed early to prepare for the 5am rise that awaits us – apparently safari parks have the most animals visible first thing in the morning..

In conclusion, the team are looking forward to (and are much in need of) a day of rest, or at least a day away from the university, but we are also very eager to see what will happen in the next week, with a potential visit from the Minister of Education lined up amongst other interesting meetings. Not much time left now, so we want to make the most of it.

 

Lots of love,

The FemEng in Rwanda team

 

Day 13

 

Our third day of running the workshops went extremely well! The first schools, King David and Kigali Parents took part in the Aerospace, Biomedical, Product Design and Civil Engineering workshops and they were really engaged and great to work with. It was especially good to see the teachers of these schools so enthusiastic about what we were doing, one invited us to their school to talk more about engineering career paths which we hope to fit in before leaving next week.

As well as our workshops the school girls were given motivational talks by Professor Jolly and Beatrice Mironko who work at the University of Rwanda headquarters. These speeches explored topics such as gender stereotypes we are exposed to from an early age and why it’s wrong that girls feel they can’t or shouldn’t study STEM subjects. The empowering messages were not only helpful to the school girls attending the workshops but also for us running them. It was really encouraging for us to see women so passionate about what we’re trying to achieve here.

After lunch we were joined by Lycée de Kigali and ran the Mechanical, Software, Civil and Renewable Energy and Water Engineering workshops. Again it was an amazingly interactive bunch of girls and we had a really nice afternoon with them. It’s really rewarding to see them so interested in the workshops and coming up with some pretty creative products/structures/devices given the short time frame! It’s nice too, to hear at the end of the workshops a few of the girls were discussing what type of engineers they want to be! This group were lucky enough to be joined by Alice Tasca, a lecturer at the Department of Architecture for an inspirational speech about women in engineering and technology.

To top off this great day we received an email from The Institute of Mechanical Engineers to let us know we were successful in our application for a Group Project Award! We were unbelievably pleased as the money we received means we can definitely afford all of the transport for the school girls attending the workshops and can ensure the continuation of the project next year.

We can’t believe we’ll be flying home in a week’s time, since being here time has passed so quickly! It feels like we’ve achieved great things so far and we’re looking forward to what else we can do in this final week.

Thanks for reading, stay tuned!

Day 12

The second day commenced with similar enthusiasm and excitement!

We got another nice breakfast at the Church Guest House Canteen, and were back in the KIST building by 8:30am.

We began the day running the Biomedical Engineering workshop and the Design Engineering workshop with some more girls from Lycee Notre Dame. Some more really amazing designs came out of the workshops in the case to solve ‘a blind person in a supermarket’. See picture below of the winning team – they designed a wheel-along walking stick to navigate them around a supermarket with a camera to detect different products, and if that was not enough there was also a basket attached to the side to store the shopping in! There were equally innovative ideas coming from the Biomedical workshop.

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The second lot of workshops in the morning were Software Engineering and Civil Engineering. The girls really enjoyed making their ‘Scratch’ programs, getting really into the different sounds and movements. Also, there were some wonderfully structurally sound tower designs built in the civil workshop. Some of the tallest we’ve seen so far!

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After lunch, we welcomed a lively bunch of girls from ETEL Technical School. We ran the Aerospace workshop and 3D Printing/Mechanical workshop to start, then due to popular demand we swapped the groups over and ran both of them again.

 

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It was a fun end to the day as they let their wild side out while throwing about paper airplanes.

We look forward to the action-packed days ahead. Tomorrow will mark us as half way through the workshop days, as well as marking the Glasgow Team as only having one week left of being in Rwanda!

Until tomorrow ~ the Glasgow FemEng Team

 

Day 11 – Commencing the Workshops

We woke up extra early to get a head start on the day. We had a hearty breakfast then made our way to meet the teams at 8:30am. Everyone was excited to begin the week of delivering workshops.

Tensions rose as we waited for the morning students to arrive. Eventually, 46 girls from Camp Kigali Secondary School arrived, eager and looking forward to the mystery of what they had been taken out of class for. Their later-than-expected arrival meant the workshops had to be rushed before lunch, but we worked together and tried to make sure the girls got as much out of the time we could give them as possible! We began the day running the Mechanical Engineering workshop and Aerospace workshop, then managed to fit in most of the Renewable Energy Engineering workshop and Civil Engineering workshop. The good vibes and positive attitudes of the teams were really appreciated, and it was a successful morning.

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After lunch, a bigger batch of students arrived. This time there were 73 girls from Lycée Notre Dame De Citeaux (LNDC). We did the usual introducing the Glasgow and Rwandan teams and quick descriptions of the different types of engineering available, and then we split into three groups. First we ran Biomedical Engineering, Software Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. We had a quick change and then ran Software Engineering again along with Renewable Energy Engineering, Water Engineering and Product Design Engineering. The students were really enthusiastic and positive. They asked lots of questions and seemed interested. The girls came up with some fantastic ideas in the design areas such as the Biomedical Engineering workshop, and were very engaged. They came up with very innovative concepts for conquering different diseases that are common in Rwanda, such as photosynthesising t-shirts and a bracelet to detect different problems. We took a lot of photos and videos of interviews, so hopefully they will be available for you to see soon!

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The students left at about 4:30pm, after taking a big group photo!

We spent some time organising and tidying in preparation for tomorrow, then had an interesting selection of foods for dinner (strange supermarket choices) before having a group meeting and organising.

There is so much to look forward to this week! We are so looking forward to talking to all the different students! Over the past three days we have already managed to talk to over 200 girls, and so many have been interested to learn more and taken note of the FemEng email address.

-FemEng Team