American Society of Engineering Education Conference – Columbus, Ohio, USA


Last week, Kepler Tech Lab (now I4Fab) had the opportunity to present our work at the annual American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) conference in Columbus, Ohio, USA. The conference attracted over 4000 engineering education researchers and educators from around the world for 4 days of talks, poster presentations, and networking sessions. It is the single biggest event every year that brings together people working in engineering education in North America and around the world, and we were excited to be able to talk to the attendees about Kepler Tech Lab.

Unfortunately, Alphonse was not able to make it because of the long journey across the Atlantic, but Jakob and I had the pleasure of representing him and the work of the lab. We presented a paper, titled Kepler Tech Lab: Developing an affordable skills-based engineering lab course in Rwanda at the International Forum, which is an event affiliated with the main conference. You can download our paper here and presentation here. We also presented a poster at the President’s Farewell Reception on Wednesday night.


Our audience at the International Forum was primarily composed of engineering educators at various universities across the world (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Aalborg University in Denmark, University of Rhode Island, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and others) who were interested in evaluating the effectiveness of the internationally-relevant engineering courses, programs, or collaborations. While most of the audience members were professors working on established programs in internationally-recognized universities, Kepler Tech Lab was one of the few projects that was spearheaded by students in a low-resource setting. We were very proud to talk about that aspect of it!

The conference provided a good opportunity for us to learn about the formal educational research methods that are used to evaluate effectiveness of engineering programs, which will also be important for formally evaluating Kepler Tech Lab’s work in the future. Some common methods that educators and education researchers use are:

  • Interviewing subjects (students, professors, community stakeholders) with tailored questions and categorizing their responses
  • Asking subjects to reflect on their experiences before and after an education intervention (through survey questions, journals, etc.) on:
    • Their perception of learning
    • Their satisfaction with learning
  • For educational initiatives with an international component, assessing subjects’ cultural competencies before and after an intervention
  • Comparing learning outcomes with internationally-recognized engineering program accreditation standards

These methods are not exclusive, and many researchers mix and match multiple methods to understand the educational experience from multiple perspectives. Some researchers may also choose to follow a group of subjects through time, which gives them more in-depth evidence of  how engineering programs may have had an impact.

The most popular method that was used between the presentations was interviews, and when I asked researchers why they chose that method, they repeatedly responded that it was the best way to get deep information about each individual subject’s thoughts and reactions. While in principle you could get the same information from a pre-written survey, they said, you would need an infinite number of questions to capture the intricate details that differentiate each subject’s experiences and perceptions. It’s so much easier to be able to probe a subject’s thoughts in the moment with a good interview question.


We also learned about new initiatives in makerspaces, which is a direction that Kepler Tech Lab/I4Fab is interested in exploring for the future. I specifically really liked Jewell Brey’s presentation on the Maker in Residence program at University of Chapel Hill’s Be A Maker makerspace. The student-run program invites local makers (engineers, artists, scientists) to host a series of 5 “build” sessions on a project in their area of expertise. The projects ranged from building a telescope to see spots on the moon to designing their own electronic musical instrument circuits using shapes made from graphite on paper. Other educators and researchers at the conference emphasized the importance of using the skills of the people in the local community when first starting a makerspace. It not only results in well-taught and fun workshops, but it helps to build local stakeholders.

We met a surprisingly large number of people who were in some way affiliated with current or future engineering education projects in East Africa. Professor Kenneth Connor and colleagues at Rensselaer Polytechnic University are adapting their low-cost mobile labs project to an international development context in sub-Saharan Africa. A group of students and staff at the University of San Diego will potentially begin working with a secondary school in southern Rwanda on a drone-engineering education program in light of Zipline’s new drone deliveries in Rwanda. The Engineers Without Borders chapter at University of Auburn is working with a secondary school in Ngorero, Rwanda to design and implement a rain water catchment system. Photographs of Rwandan markets taken by interns at the Land O’Lakes’ Global Food Challenge program (which focuses on agricultural systems in East Africa) were featured in Resource, a magazine of American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. We certainly were not expecting to meet that many people with a connection to Rwanda or East Africa!

We also ran into Eric Reynolds, a former MIT D-Lab instructor who hosted Alphonse at the FabLearn conference in Stanford last October!

Thank you to Sophi Martin, Kate Boden, Kweku Opoku-Agyemang, and Brendan Folie at University of California – Berkeley for valuable feedback on our presentation. Thank you to the University of California – Berkeley conference travel grant for generous funding for us to be able to attend the conference.

The ASEE conference was a great opportunity for us to record and share the work that we had done as concrete deliverables, and to learn from and network with leading engineering educators and researchers around the world. We’re looking forward to more opportunities to share our work with a local and global audience in upcoming conferences. Stay tuned for more blog posts!


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Mothering Across Continents’ Pivot Academy Facilitator Training


One of the main objectives of Kepler Tech Lab is to get connected with local/corporate organizations to implement practical education in schools or local communities for students to learn by doing and solve critical problems in their communities. After with Igire Rwanda Organization to provide STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) education to beneficiaries, the tech lab hosted teacher training with Pivot Academy of Mothering Across Continents to train a team of facilitators who will be training students in Southern Province of Rwanda.

Are you wondering what Pivot Academy and Mothering Across Continents? Mothering Across Continents is a not for profit organization that provides “[consultancy], coaching and mentoring [students] to develop dream projects that help raise tomorrow’s leaders. Pivot Academy is a MAC program that creates “awareness of the need for and value of STEM Education, coupled with ICT (Information Communication Technology).”


Kepler Tech Lab hosted 4 day-long teacher training programs with Mothering Across Continents‘ Pivot Academy to train their 17 facilitators plus 5 lab staff. The trainees, except 3 of 5 lab staff, were prepared to training senior 4 students (10th-grade students) from four high schools, the fifth not yet confirmed, in Southern Province of Rwanda and at least 511 students will be trained during the course of the month of July 2017.

The trainings were about performing experiments such as water filtration/solar desalination, solar dehydrator, zeer pots, and food preservation (putting food in different solutions such as salt, vinegar, sugar, etc.., to maintain their expiration dates).

Facilitators were trained to help students performing the same experiments but focusing on the principle of Design Thinking. The students will also be provided with STEM and ICT Education in ways that move away from textbook-driven memorization to approaches that are more student-centered and focus on problem-solving.

What MAC for Pivot Academy and Kepler Tech Lab have in common?

Apart from implementing practical education and introducing the principle of Design Thinking (Design Circle for Pivot Academy) to help students solve critical problems in their communities and possibly explore business opportunities around their creations, the two organizations have a lot in common. Should I mention one them? Well, Kepler Tech Lab and Pivot Academy are looking for making the world a better place to live by addressing a challenge at the OpenIDEO: How might we improve educational outcomes for children and youth —particularly girls— in emergency situations? is Kepler Tech Lab idea of introducing maker education lab in refugee camps due to our past experience teaching Kiziba Refugee students. is Pivot Academy’s idea of Replicating a High School STEM Teacher Training and Student Academy through an Online Platform and Tablet Technology. The good news is that all ideas are in review and you can support them by first creating an account at if not any, open each idea, then comment and like.

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Tech Lab’s Girls in STEM Education Initiative


What would it take to bridge the gap between girls and boys in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields? It is believed that anyone can invent/create/build things out of his/her creativity, but how can one do it? I think it requires one to be interested and committed to face challenges and celebrate successes if the end results look great. How about stimulating someone’s interests through introducing developmental concepts and establish different ways to be exposed to the applications of those concepts?


As of June 12, 2017, Kepler Tech Lab has established a strong partnership with Igire Rwanda Organization, a not for profit organization that empowers youth to use their talents, skills, and opportunities they have to create their own jobs. With Igire Rwanda, girls are being provided with soft-skills at the same time with technical skills through STEM education right in the lab.


The lab is leading two major STEM education (engineering enrichment programs in Computer Programming and Electronics Recycling) initiatives with girls who recently graduated from high school or dropped in the middle. Two weeks ago, students have been spending three sessions a week, 3 hours each session, in the lab learning some basics in Electronics (performing resistivity activity using graphite and papers), how to use electronic equipment, and exercise technical communications.


The goals of Girls in STEM Education initiative is to encourage equal participation of girls and boys in Engineering fields, more importantly, to facilitate them through independent projects, establish continuity plan of their projects and become their mentors to turn the projects into tech business opportunities or learners be ready to work in a certain tech field.

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Wood and Metalworking Experience Through Trebuchet Making

Beyond computer programming (Scratch), physical computing (Arduino) and other electronics related concepts, last week’s workshop with middle-school students was about to teach them how to use woodworking and metalworking tools, such hacksaw, drilling machine, etc… through the construction of Trebuchet. “A trebuchet is a type of catapult that works by using the energy of a raised counterweight to throw a projectile.”


The workshop of building the trebuchet was not only about launching things (maybe a stone) in the atmosphere tho it was the heart of experiment but also the application of physics and mathematics, not to mention the ability to use wood and metal working tools.


9th graders explored the principles of physics and mathematics. They learned the application of kinetic energy and gravitational energy and well able to the two energies.


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Highlight of Things Happened in Scratch Meet-up, Nairobi, Kenya

Originally posted at by Alphonse Habyarimana

Almost two weeks ago, organized by Joek Van Montfort from the Netherlands who is doing an amazing job in organizing Scratch conferences across Europe and is now stepping in helping Africans to be part of Scratch community, African Scratchers met in Nairobi, Kenya. There are a couple of reasons of this meeting that took place and some of which are to give Africa a strong voice in Scratch community, plan for Scratch Conference in Bordeaux and how Africa can be represented, share our best practices, and more importantly building African Scratch network and have fun. Here are top three things happened which you should know.

Series of presentations

Foondi Workshop:


Foondi Workshop of Juliet Wanyiri is a constructionist workshops to individuals that encourages maker movement in Kenya through a variety of topics, from Electronics, Internet of Things to 3D printing modeling in Kenya.

Mekatilili Programs:


Mekatilili Programs of Marian Muthui encourages women to be part of engineering fields and bridge the gap between girls and boys in engineering career.

She Codes for Change:


She Codes for Change is a Tanzanian based organization that encourages girls in STEM subjects more specifically to get them inspired, educated and equipped with computing skill.



WareFab of Mercy Ngoiri is a digital fabrication lab (I would say) that makes educational kits, 3D printing, and other digital technologies in Kenya. Mercy and team have and scratch-n-sketch which can help Scratch export their codes in this board and interact with physical objects.

Cod Cod Codet:,


Started in Morocco and now expanding in Angola, Cod Cod Codet of Fleur-Eve Le Foll aims to promote innovation from early childhood through learning how to code and tinker with physical programming.

Kepler Tech Lab also being renamed I4Fab (Innovation for Fabrication):


Kepler Tech Lab is a social innovation center and engineering teaching laboratory introduce after-school engineering enrichment programs in electronics, computer programming, and Creative Capacity Building to students and local communities in Kigali, Rwanda


Sam Goddy

SugarLabs represented by Samson Goddy makes a collection of tools that learners use to explore, discover, create, and reflect. It helps children create their own applications through computer programming. Need to learn more about SureLabs.

Easy coding:


Easy coding of Adel Kassah introduces and teaches students computational thinking, coding microcontroller using Adel’s own Arduino Blocs and other computer programming related subjects.


The host Max at United States International University, Nairobi, Kenya, talks about the most recent coding bootcamp at USIU.


Neema Gichaara talks about her work with South Korean sponsored

Variety of workshops

Makey Makey
Make-makey team

IoT (Internet of Things)

exploring littlebits

Swahili Version of Scratch

Swahili translator

To facilitate over 100,000,000 Swahili speakers be able to use Scratch easily, Scratch Nairobi meeting considered to translate Scratch in Swahili and it is available very soon


We had great convos with Mitchel Resnick and Kreg Hanning.  Mitch is the Professor at the MIT Media Lab, director of the team that develops, coordinates, and supports Scratch and Kreg is a Graduate Student and Research Assistant at MIT Media Lab. Kreg works with a team of developers on Scratch. They both shared with African community the historic background of Scratch and plans for a future version of Scratch (Stay hungry with improved features).

Plan for Bordeaux

Without a plan for Bordeaux, this meeting would not otherwise take place in Nairobi; maybe it would happen but with different purpose. After all activities, there was a room for opportunities to explore how Africans can better be represented in Bordeaux this July 2017. Whoever is going to make Scratch2017BDX should expect incredible presentations, posters, and or ignite talks from Africans.

Did I say movie night among highlights? 🙂

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Well done! After 5 weeks of scratch they are able to create 3D games.

We spend more than 5 weeks by studying how to make simple animations using scratch, but the way students are very interested made this class more innovative and creative. By two weeks all students was able to make different animations including sprites or characters voice and also the background music. It is not only animation making but also they learnt how to make a public presentation, because we encourage them to work in groups so that they had time to present that small projects.

At this time, we have introduced a new lesson to them for how they should make a blocks which will be interacted to the user. As an example you should ask user to press any key to the keyboard then pre-defined event immediately happen.


This is Danny, he’s trying to make a simple project using scratch after
finishing our 5 weeks of teaching this class i had an interview with Danny.
How did you see our class of scratch?

He said that, the class was very fantastic and their have got more skills of using
scratch and he is encouraged everyone who doesn’t have some skills of making
a simple Animations to come at Kepler Tech lab .

Also Danny wants to continue this class outside of Kepler tech lab, so that he will be able train his classmates how their make a simple animation by using scratch .

Lastly, Danny has a remarks for the young people which says that ‘ youth must work hard and have a respect in every activities they are doing.

Celestin as class facilitator, I wish you to continue working hard and have more innovation when you are creating a script animations . Good luck Danny.

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How Do you Get Young Students Used to New Concepts?

img_8949Kepler Tech Lab and its middle high school students who take after-school engineering classes and workshops have had epic November and December of 2016! Wow, I cannot imagine it’s been two months teaching young students! It was an extraordinary experience to get young students with zero knowledge about engineering and tinkering things get started with experimenting and testing what technologies have to offer. Last two months of 2016, we enrolled and taught middle high school students for the first time and it was amazing to see how they were excited to build their own things, play around with Arduino kits, and try out the concepts of electricity using Squishy Circuits. From this experience of exposing innate innovators, I’d say, who cannot otherwise get a chance and an access to technologies without Kepler Tech Lab at the moment, I gained a better understanding of interactive learning and what it means for educators.

As defined by an instructor, Lindy Hatten, of the, “interactive learning is a hands-on approach to help students become more engaged and retain more material.” Lindy added that “with or without a form of technology, interactive learning helps students strengthen [problem-solving] and critical thinking skills.”

Let’s get back to the topic; how do you get students acquaint themselves with new concepts? To share my experience, the rest of the article is about how no technological students have been experiencing Scratch, the MIT Media Lab programming language that allows individuals, mostly young students, create and tinker with stories, games, and animations, not forgetting physical computing. The week of 9 Jan 2017, we introduced Scratch to our students and we have had wonders if learners with little to no knowledge about using computers for programming or anything else can do something.


Sample game of guessing numbers to show to students

I’d say, we were late to start because Scratch requires only critical thinking and then drag as you drop graphics without typing anything, except if the story contains written messages. As always, our students are interested in doing many things at once trying to catch up with what they have missed during their early ages. The lab staff, we only need to regulate what they have to learn, how much they can support, and what are our goals for them to get the most out of our concepts.

How we got started? Firstly, we realized that we cannot wait until our students are fluent in using computers. We helped them to navigate through Graphic User Interface of Scratch to get them understand how to pick a sprite, customize the sprite, change its style, make it move, add a message and add sound, just to list a few. Isn’t it enough for beginners? We use to have three sessions in a week with these young students and that was for day one. On day two, after understanding what they can do with Scratch, I gave them a homework about writing stories of their choice so that they can start day 3 with funny activities of making stories in a scratch. See what they have written and worked on day three. Do not try to read the first one from the right, except if you can understand Kinyarwanda. To provide you with a hint, it’s a love story of which a girl passed a long time with no see her lover and decided to let him go. A guy, in turn, visited a girl and started to sing for her. It’s a long story. I would love to share a full story once students are done with animating.


Students’ written stories in brief.


What they started to make out of their stories using Scratch

The day three was about turning their written stories into animations using Scratch, still ongoing! The activity was not only about teaching them how to make animations but also to present to the whole class what they have made so that they can be able to develop technical communications.


We still have a lot to do with Scratch and students’ smiling faces are promising that they are enjoying and learning a lot with Kepler Tech Lab.

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