Eunice Atete is seated among her classmates on a Tuesday morning, ready and eager to meet her mentor to start a robotics class session. She is already absorbed with the robot toys in front of her. The eleven-year-old aspires to become a cardiologist in the future, but she is as enthusiastic about robotics. When asked how she sees the two intertwining, she says: When I grow up, I want to construct my own hospital in addition to becoming a heart doctor. Because I want to be able to comprehend and supervise the technology that will be utilized in my hospital, I am learning about robotics and I enjoy learning about computer systems. She spends her free time climbing trees, doing homework, and attending Saturday morning Robotics lessons. Atete is one of the 13 children receiving robotics training from the Science Technology Entrepreneurship Leadership Academy, STELA, at Bright School in Muhanga District, where she attended nursery school through currently her final year of primary school. Their ages range from 9 to 12 years, and they are in grades 4 to 6. I enjoy going to school because they allow us to express ourselves, they value our opinions, and I have so much fun with my friends, Atete adds. I also enjoy that we learn by doing, she says. For example, in our recent session, we learned about carpentry, she says when asked what exactly to learn by doing implies. “We went to a workshop, learned about and saw their equipment, and then acted like carpenters, learning how to do it in real life, which I absolutely loved. Atete confirms that the same is true for their robotics classes, which are taught by STELA-trained youth volunteers. STELA is a non-profit organisation based in New York that encourages young people from underprivileged regions to pursue careers in STEM fields. One of trainees during the exercise during the workshop. Founded by Eric Biribuze, an American national, the organisation provides the children with the Spike Prime curriculum, which consists of nine modules with self and peer assessments. Design, construction, operation, and application of robots, as well as computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing, are all part of the curriculum, which is tailored to their level of comprehension. Three volunteers, in partnership with some of their teachers, provide their classes, which take place once a week. In addition to the needed engineering and programming backgrounds, they are virtually trained and mentored by STELA coaches from the United States. STELA also provides them with Lego Education Spike Prime kits, tablets, and other learning aids to help them learn smoothly. The vision and way forward According to STELA, the lack of sufficient resources to empower engineers in Rwanda and Africa as a whole is the cause of the shortfall in the number of engineers. We aim to bridge the gap between young people who want to study and people who are prepared to invest in making their ambitions a reality, said Biribuze, who also doubles as the NGO’s president. Biribuze, who is an African-American was honored with the Black Engineer of the Year Award for Professional Achievement in 2018. There are people in the diaspora who want to help but dont know how, and there are youngsters who could benefit from assistance but lack it. STELA is here to fill the void, he explained. I love seeing young people empowered at an early age because it feeds their passion and gives them direction, which assures the continuance of knowledge and prevents a gap in the number of engineers as new generations come up, Biribuze said. Biribuze dreams of a self-sustaining robotics team at Bright School and hopes to spread to other schools as well. We want to put together a strong team of coaches and teachers, get additional materials contributed that are more adequate and efficient, and then deal with scalability later. We intend to extend to additional schools so that more pupils can benefit from this chance, he noted. The dream is to see an Africa that is self-sufficient in everything, including engineers in our industries, he continued. “We wont need to bring in individuals from other countries if we can employ our local human resources. Biribuze, whose wife hails from Rwanda, is a recipient of the 2018 Black Engineer of the Year Award for Professional Achievement. He was recognized for his successful 20 years of contributions and accomplishments at Corning – a multinational technology company. One of the trainers demonstrating to students.