Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Initiating Community STEM In West Africa

InsightSTEM West Africa Family and Community STEM held it first Community STEM exploration event at SMART LIBERIA hall (9th street, Sinkor). This event brings together 18 parents and 16 kids from various communities to engage in exploration activities. This event marks the first of its kind in West Africa with support from InsightSTEM.

Our West African coordinator (Simmie S. Nyanfor, Jr.) presented an overview of InsightSTEM and pending family and community STEM programs to be implemented in West Africa. Meanwhile, the director for Family and Community STEM and KinderSTEM  in West Africa (Johnnason L. David, Jr.) explained to parents and kids the differences between Family STEM, Community STEM, and KinderSTEM as its related to the work of InsightSTEM in West Africa.

He clearly stated that Family STEM is a series of events where parents and kids engage STEM explorations and learn to learn together, He also explained that Community STEM Explorations are considered to be one off events for adults and kids to engage together in STEM exploration. KinderSTEM is another initiative where InsightSTEM works with teachers working with the youngest kids in the education system aged 4-6 yrs old.

In this event the community members did three STEM explorations: Blobs in the Bottle,  Fizz-inflator, and Build the Tallest Tower. Adults and kids alike were engaged in these activities working together to find the best solutions!

Our Community STEM activities were all designed to engage individuals in STEM exploration, and to democratize STEM knowledge to all, young and old, through exploration.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Developing New Partnerships in West Africa: LESSAT

On the 24th of June 2016 some InsightSTEM Campus Ambassadors along with the InsightSTEM West Africa Coordinator, West Africa Family, Community and KinderSTEM Director, and other InsightSTEM Local Impact Committee: Liberia Officials attended a networking dinner organized by our new partner Liberian Encouraging Student in Science and Technology (LESSAT).

The dinner was themed "Interactive Fundraising Dinner with Professionals". The funds raised will be used for projects LESSAT will undertake, in particular encouraging more Liberian women to pursue STEM careers.

During the dinner the InsightSTEM West Africa Coordinator, Mr. Simmie N. Nyanfor Jr., presented different STEM TED Talks to inspire young students to take up a career in STEM and also encourage those brave ones to stay in STEM fields. Also during the dinner we had our InsightSTEM Local Impact Committee: Liberia Chairman Mr. Chalaty A. Young tell the students sweet stories about InsightSTEM and all the good work that is coming up, he also extended an invitation for them to become Campus Ambassadors and join the LIC to make STEM exploration great in Liberia with their different ideas.

The dinner ended successfully with interactions among students and professionals. Many thanks to the organizers and our partner LESSAT for the planning.

You can support InsightSTEM's ongoing activities in West Africa at

-- Jatherlyn Manlay. Tellewoyan 
InsightSTEM LIC Liberia Logistics Officer

Thursday, August 4, 2016

What STEM professionals could do in my classroom and for my classmates and teachers

A high school student's perspective...

In high school, many students groan about having to take STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) classes and wonder when trigonometry will ever be useful in life. Sometimes it can be hard for students to get excited about these classes because they are often taught in a bland, abstract way without any context to how they may ever be applicable in the “real” world. This is where STEM professionals could step in. STEM professionals would add context and excitement to my STEM classes. These professionals could educate students about how what they are learning is useful and how much more exciting and relevant their studies are to real problems and understanding the world than the words written in their textbooks. Providing us with ideas of the endless and unimaginable contexts and discoveries that can be made using tools and knowledge we are only beginning to learn. STEM professionals could accomplish this by giving us interactive and engaging presentations about their jobs, explaining their research or their role in their company. Giving us students examples of different types of STEM careers could potentially inspire us to follow in their footsteps. Additionally, by STEM professionals incorporating a demonstration into their presentations they could excite and engage more of us. Interactive presentations are important because they can leave a more lasting impression than a typical lecture which is key to holding students interest in STEM programs.

Unfortunately, as exciting as it would be to have STEM professionals in classrooms it is far from a reality. So far in high school I have had one STEM professional come into my class. He was one of my peers’ parents that volunteered to come in. I don’t know if the limited number of STEM professionals in classrooms is due to the setup of school curriculums or the availability of these professionals to teachers or both. Obviously changing the school curriculum could be a difficult change to initiate. However, if curriculums could be designed to accommodate having guest facilitators it would be beneficial to the students. In addition to a curriculum change, creating a place where teachers and STEM professionals could communicate to set up presentations or collaborations would be very valuable for the students. If STEM professionals were easily accessible to teachers I believe that my teachers would be extremely interested in working with them. It can be hard for teachers to find STEM professionals that are willing to come in, and often times they don’t know where to start looking. I think, having a place to easily contact or be contacted by STEM professionals would help solve this problem for a lot of my teachers.

Similarly a more in-depth collaboration between teachers and STEM professionals would increase the impact of the professional’s presence in the classroom. A collaboration could mean many things. For instance, the professional and teacher could together design an activity, project, or experiment for the class to do over a given amount of time. They could help the class set up and come back periodically to check in and review. The activity could be centered around the STEM professionals’ line of work and could involve the types of equipment that they use in their job on a daily basis. This would allow students to dip their toe in the water of what STEM jobs are like and help kindle their interest in STEM careers. Furthermore, if STEM professionals could offer opportunities outside of the classroom for interested students it could allow us students to gain experience in the field and assess if the particular career could be right for them.

Students like me would value these interactions and partnerships to add more richness, depth and interest to my class rooms. I hope that programs like InsightSTEM's High School Scholars program, Insightful Teachers program, and projects in the area of Expert-Instructor-Learner-Communicator partnerships will have great impacts in this area.

To join InsightSTEM's High School Scholars program visit here:
To nominate (or self nominate) and Insightful Teacher visit here:

Nina O'Brien is a High School Student at the Catalina Foothills High School in Tucson, AZ; Nina is participating with InsightSTEM through the High School Scholars program and has a summer internship with InsightSTEM to work on the development of World STEM Exploration Week.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Back to School 2016: Mapping our Campus Ambassador Impact

Right now we have Campus Ambassadors at Universities in 23 countries around the world, and the number is constantly growing. We keep track of the campuses where our ambassadors (and the supporters of the program) are having an impact around the world in an active google map that is embedded below in this blog post... or you can visit to explore some more!

To support our Campus Ambassadors around the world, and help us to have impacts with our new programs for the 2016-2017 school year you can visit

Professional Development and Planning in West Africa

To support our ongoing work in West Africa please visit

In May, InsightSTEM's President and CEO Dr. Jacob Noel-Storr made a trip to West Africa in keeping with InsightSTEM's mission – to democratize STEM knowledge through exploration. Dr. Jake Noel-Storr's trip covered a planning and professional development training of over 150 students, teachers and young STEM professionals on a train-the-trainer mode to make meaningful impact in and across West Africa.

The benefits of doing so are that students and teachers experience real-world problems in exploring STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields and the ever-changing workforce, sparking and supporting interest in pursuing STEM careers. Creating these impacts earlier in students' educational careers will serve to encourage even more students to enter these fields.

West Africa -- a prime region for impacts on STEM education, students, young STEM professionals and teachers -- showed the enthusiasm and commitment that they are ready to change the paradigm of STEM education.

On day 1 of the planning and development week the InsightSTEM West Africa Coordinator Simmie S. Nyanfor and the Liberia Local Impact Committee chair Chalaty A. Young met Dr Jake, followed by the InsightSTEM Local Impact Committee Liberia leadership on planning how Insight STEM can make more impact across Liberia and West Africa after the planning and development week.

The Planning and Professional Development week continued on day 2 with an occasion for over 60 students from 20 different high schools: encouraging the students to do STEM and to introduce InsightSTEM’s premiere program for High School Students called the ‘High School Scholars Program’ which offers networking opportunities and professional development for High School students.

On the same day, Dr. Jake hosted the first training to enable West Africa students and Young STEM Professionals to work with teachers in promoting the understanding of STEM knowledge through exploration; followed by a meeting for all Campus Ambassadors for updates and to present their campus ambassador certificates. Campus Ambassadors are a global network of college undergraduates and graduate students interested or invested in the future of STEM knowledge. This is a global network of students who self-connect and motivate to promote the InsightSTEM Message -- and there is a cadre of over 70 Campus Ambassadors in Liberia already furthering their own STEM careers and the careers of others of all ages.

Day 3 of the Planning and Professional Development week focused on working with families and communities and working with STEM exploration technologies for West Africa through two workshops. The workshops will enable students and young STEM professionals to deliver STEM exploration programs to families and communities, to promote further pursuit of STEM, and to enable students and young STEM professionals to adapt and provide STEM Exploration Technologies that work in the social, economic and infrastructure environment of West Africa. The momentum and enthusiasm for making impact was increasing day by day.

Dr. Jake had a 3 hours long STEM exploration training workshop for our Insightful Teachers on day 4 of the Planning and Professional development week and, followed up with a partnership workshop for our first 5 Teacher-STEM partnership pairings!! The teachers hope InsightSTEM can expand further, and train more educators across Liberia and West Africa, and hopefully partner with the National Teacher's Association of Liberia to make learning through exploration a reality in Liberian classrooms! The Insightful Teachers are a global network of teachers who are enthusiastic to reimagine STEM education through exploration.

Day 5 of planning in Liberia was focused on developing our first set of family programs to be offered in West Africa with the focus on "Environmental Exposure"; from the physics of sound, to the chemistry of air quality, to the biology of germs and the spread of disease, to the earth science of natural environmental hazards. The programs will be trialled starting in August or September of 2016!

After this week of planning and training, InsightSTEM President Dr. Jake Noel-Storr and West Africa Coordinator Simmie S. Nyanfor, Jr. were hosted on a radio show called ‘Better Tomorrow’ to discussed the future of STEM education in Liberia on Voice FM. This show was highly interactive where in a lot of Liberians called to commemorate InsightSTEM for their excellent work in Liberia and how we could better make impact across the nation.

In the last few days in Liberia we focused on meetings with the Local Impact Committee teams including Networking, Technology and Communications teams to plan for ongoing impacts for 2016!

We wrapped up the Planning and Professional development with some final meetings with InsightSTEM Grant writing and Fundraising Team; Events and Logistics Team; and the appointment of InsightSTEM new "Families, Communities, and KinderSTEM Mission Director for West Africa", Johnnason L. David, Jr.

Dr Jake left behind a fantastic and enthusiastic crew with InsightSTEM West Africa Coordinator Simmie S. Nyanfor Jr., Liberia Local Impact Committee Chair, Chalaty A. Young, and all of InsightSTEM Local Impact Committee members, Campus Ambassadors, Insightful Teachers, Young STEM Professionals, and High School Scholars across West Africa!

For more information on InsightSTEM in West Africa please email or like our FaceBook Page.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Back to School 2016: Our Campus Ambassadors Worldwide

Recently we presented the latest updates about our Campus Ambassadors program at the national meeting of the American Astronomical Society. You can check out the poster below or here!

We are launching our Back to School campaign to support our ongoing Campus Ambassadors program... where you can have great impacts in providing professional development and education/outreach training and opportunities to the next generation of STEM professionals worldwide! To learn about how to support this program please visit ... and check back here for continuing updates and information soon!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Powering Science and Technology for Africa's Economic Transformation. A need for InsightSTEM intervention.

By: Simmie S. Nyanfor, Jr. (InsightSTEM West Africa Coordinator)

As InsightSTEM begins to expand our impacts into West Africa, it is worth considering the needs for incorporating new educational strategies and international partnerships to help the next generation of young Africans prosper in an increasingly STEM focused economy and world.

Africa has achieved exceptional economic growth over the past decade, averaging 4.5% a year, underpinned by prudent macroeconomic management. Now we must achieve economic growth that is accompanied by significantly less poverty and greater prosperity for all the people of the continent. With new discoveries of oil, gas, and minerals seemingly every month, we need to be able to extract, market, and invest the new-found earnings from these resources in higher quality education, health, and other vital development priorities.

As Africans move to cities in ever-growing numbers, we must also address unprecedented rates of urbanization and new needs for housing, infrastructure, and agricultural productivity to feed urban residents as well as increase food security in rural areas. On the environment front, Africa, which has contributed the least to climate change, is bearing its disproportionate impact in terms of droughts, floods, rising sea levels which in turn bring economic losses and hardship.

At the same time, these challenges also bring opportunities for joint research that would benefit scientists across the world as well in Africa. There is scope for similar research collaboration between African and foreign scientists in medicine and biodiversity, irrigation, engineering, mining and other fields.

But here is the challenge. We will only achieve these exciting research coalitions in Africa if we correct a longstanding imbalance in our education systems. Today, our stock of graduates is still highly skewed towards the humanities and social sciences, while the share of our students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) averages less than 25%. Further, women are under-represented in science and technology-related courses and professions on the continent.

Thanks to Africa's recent progress in school enrollment, more and more students are completing primary and secondary school. This new generation of young Africans must be equipped with the modern skills and knowledge they need to find African solutions to Africa's challenges. Earlier this year, at a High-Level Forum on Higher Education for Science, Technology and Innovation hosted by the Government of Rwanda and the World Bank in Kigali, participating countries and partners called for a bold target -- to double the share of African university graduates in science and technology fields within a decade, by 2025. This is key to transform Africa into a knowledge-driven continent within a generation.

So how can we do it? There are proven steps that can be taken to realign higher education with the needs of the 21st century economy and to brighten the career prospects of young Africans today. Partnership is the operative word, between academic institutions both in Africa and abroad, between universities and the private sector, and with new investment partners in Asia and Latin America. Systemic reforms are also necessary, particularly to improve the quality of education across all levels of the education system, and to make higher education more relevant to the needs of would-be employers.

African universities have much to gain from joining forces with universities abroad, such as through the University of Michigan's STEM-Africa initiative which has nurtured young scientists and advanced research networks with institutions in Africa, and also their work in training mathematicians and doctors on the continent.

In fact, the African diaspora can play a very critical role in advancing science and technology in their countries of origin by helping generate new interest in supporting the STEM fields in Africa. We must mobilize a wide alliance of supporters including policymakers, international financial institutions such as the World Bank Group, and academics, both in Africa and abroad. At the same time, universities in Africa now need to achieve the next level of home-grown excellence.

A number of US and European universities have campuses and programs overseas, notably in Asia and the Middle East--and the next frontier is Africa. One US university has opened a campus in Rwanda, and the first cohort of students from this centre will graduate later this year. By building campuses in Africa, such programs bring quality education that is adapted to local cultural norms and requirements. Universities that move quickly will be at a significant advantage as this is a growing market that will only become larger as Africa continues its robust economic growth.

Students must also be able to apply what they learn once they graduate and look to cross the threshold of the jobs market. This requires innovative partnerships and coalitions, as well as targeted reforms. Following the example of countries like Kenya and Senegal, ministries responsible for higher education should aim to boost private representation on their university boards and engage with the private sector to strengthen links with employers, including on curriculum design. Private sector partners in Africa can also offer apprenticeships, internships, and certification programs, to help bridge the gap between what is being taught in universities and the realities of the job market, and to invest in the next generation of technicians and corporate recruits.

The World Bank is working with eight African governments and the Association of African Universities on the Africa Centres of Excellence initiative, which will strengthen 19 centres of excellence in West and Central Africa. This initiative aims to build and sustain excellence in higher education in Africa, particularly in science and technology, by fostering regional specialization, concentrating limited top-level faculty and generating knowledge "spillovers." This sort of cooperative action is vital to maximize the impact of limited resources and achieve greater regional integration.

Africa's new partners--countries such as Brazil, China, India and Korea--can play an important role in building human capital in Africa. These countries have rich experience in developing higher education programs that serve the needs of modernizing economies, and have much to offer by way of lessons learned and active partnerships. The World Bank is working towards building a Partnership for Skills in the Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology ("PASET") that brings together new partners and African policymakers, to catalyse this process especially in high-potential sectors.

Partnership among all of these networks will commit us all to a coordinated, faster approach to advancing science and technology in Africa and helping Africans young people achieve their aspirations. It will also help companies to find young Africans with advanced skills and knowledge locally, allowing them to compete and thrive in international markets.

As more than 11 million young Africans try to join enter the job market every year over the next decade, we need to make strategic investments in their education and other development prospects in order to drive and sustain Africa's economic transformation.