Supporting our partner Oysters & Pearls - Uganda!

In January, we supported our partner Oysters & Pearls – Uganda as they ran a holiday technology camp in Gulu, Northern Uganda during the school break for secondary students. The camp was inclusive of sighted and visually impaired students. Both students and instructors came from all over Uganda to participate in this exciting camp, which covered robotics, prototyping, video game design, software development, website development, and assistive technologies for the blind.

The Yiya team worked to help prep instructors for the 2019 Tech Camp ahead of time (running trainings for them in both December and January) and then stayed on-ground at the camp to provide daily teaching support. We encouraged instructors to keep their technology lessons R-E-A-L: by having Relevant content, Energizing games, Active group work activities, and always keeping the classroom Learner-centered.

We were so excited to be able to support the instructors in this way and were very impressed at their openness to teach in innovative, hands-on new ways to ensure that they engaged all their students!

Yiya goes yummy!

Edible Insect Farming Project!

We are glad to announce our new partnership with Impact Designs, a Danish nonprofit dedicated to developing innovative business models for refugees in some of the world's poorest nations.  They are currently working with the Danish Refugee Council, one of the world’s leading humanitarian agencies, to pilot production of mealworms among the refugees in Kyaka II settlement in Uganda. Click here to read their latest newsletter in which they announce this exciting new partnership!

In this partnership, Yiya will design training materials and guides for training community members in refugee settlements in Western Uganda on edible insect farming. We will also pilot the insect farming project in partner schools in Northern Uganda in our Term 2 engineering unit.  

In the edible insect farming engineering unit, students will learn how to farm edible insects! Students will study the life cycle of Molitor beetles and then experiment with different designs for a freestanding beetle farm that supports the entire lifecycle of the beetles and allows for easy harvesting of their larva (mealworms!). Students will also learn how to build solar dryers to dry the mealworms for later consumption. Due to droughts, which have been made more severe and frequent by climate change, many families in Northern Uganda experience chronic food shortages, and children often suffer from malnutrition, which causes stunted growth and other health problems. Insects are rich in many nutrients and are great sources of protein!  

Eating insects is not something alien to Uganda. Ugandans eat various types of insects like grasshoppers (which are called ‘nsenene’ in the local dialect) and white ants (nswa). In Western Uganda close to the DRC border, Ugandans there eat several types of mealworms.

For the past month, we’ve been conducting research to find out if we can source the molitor beetle from poultry and cattle farms in Uganda to save time and avoid the extensive paperwork involved in the cross border transfer of live animals (the mealworms are already farmed in Kenya, so they are close but would still need to be imported if we used a Kenyan supplier).

So far, we’ve been able to identify the lesser mealworm (Alphitobius diaperinus), which looks quite similar, but is a bit smaller and behaves differently. Local farmers have told us that during the rainy season, it will be easy to find the right species of the molitor beetle that we want. The rainy season typically starts in March, so we are ready!

See below some of the species of the molitor beetles we have found in Uganda and see here the right species of the molitor beetle from which mealworms come. Also below are some fun pics showing how Ugandans currently cook and serve the delicacy nsenene (grasshopper!).

Exciting update on Yiya's impact!

When crunching the numbers at the end of academic year 2018 (the Ugandan academic year ends in November), we started to notice some interesting trends!

Our control students are beginning to show the same kinds of impacts as our Yiya students! Control students are students in our Yiya partner schools who are NOT participating in the Yiya classes. Over the past two years, these students have answered questions much differently than students participating in the Yiya classes. But on this latest survey, they started to show some similarities. We were puzzled by this until we started to dig deeper. Upon further investigation, we realized these control students are in classes taught by Yiya partner teachers...and when asked, Yiya partner teachers reported that their teaching styles are changing in ALL their lessons, not just the Yiya classes.

This is huge.

Through this process, we've realized our impact numbers are actually much higher than we had previous thought. Instead of impacting only the 300 students participating in the Yiya program, we have actually impacted over 3,400 students! These are the students taught by our Yiya partner teachers, whose teaching methodologies have altered drastically through their participation in the Yiya program!!!

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Teacher Spotlight: Mrs Stella Asingo

Asingo Stella

Mrs Asingo is a geography teacher and school counselor at Rapha Girls Secondary School, in Lira, Northern Uganda. She is also a partner teacher for Yiya! Initially Mrs Asingo was hesitant about joining the Yiya program as her background is in the humanities and not math or science. But after hearing about some of the lessons from students who were participating in the program, she decided to stop by and visit a lesson, and she has been part of the Yiya program ever since!

Although many of the concepts introduced in the Yiya program, such as resistors and capacitors, were initially foreign to her, Mrs Asingo said she learned quickly because of how the Yiya teaching methodology makes even complex physics topics simple and easy to understand. She says a big benefit of the program is that you don’t just sit down to learn a specific concept, but instead you use that concept to create a new technology that helps solve a community problem! This is how she learn how to make bicycle-powered phone chargers and the cost-effective greenhouse prototype.

Mrs Asingo says that being part of the Yiya program makes her feel a step ahead of the other teachers at her school who are not participating in the Yiya program, because she now knows how to make real things that can be used in real life, and help other members in her community. In addition, she says she really values the teaching methodology that Yiya helps teachers to practice during workshops and in the Yiya lessons. She has used these new teaching strategies in her own non-Yiya lessons and has been so excited to see students respond very positively!

When asked whether she feels the program has impacted students’ academics performance, she says

“Yes, it has helped them, especially the weak ones who didn’t like science subjects, for example physics, and through this they are now in love with the science subjects because they are finding the things easy and can now easily relate what they learn from the [Yiya] program to what is being taught to them in class”.

Often in class, she will hear Yiya girls talking to students who are not in the Yiya program, and explaining to them about how a very complicated topic that was in the previous week’s lecture actually makes much more sense after they have done that week’s Yiya activity using that topic. The girls then take time to explain the topic to students who were not part of the Yiya lesson, which also has improved their self-confidence, especially in science subjects.

Yiya Annual Giving Campaign!

From now until the end of 2018, Yiya is running our annual giving campaign to raise funds for our program in 2019.

So far, Yiya has brought engineering lessons to the classrooms of more than 300 students in Northern Uganda!

Now, we want to do more…

This holiday season we are raising money to expand our program to 2 new schools in 2019 and reach a total of 500 Ugandan students!!!

Every dollar raised goes towards providing engineering training, teacher manuals, student journals, and materials kits so that more students in Uganda have the opportunity to engage in engineering projects that benefit their communities!

In addition, our crowdfunding platform will be matching the donations of all donors who commit to a monthly Yiya donation.

Please support Yiya this holiday season at Happy Giving!

Please support our students today!


Tuesday, Nov 27th is #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday is an international day of generosity where individuals, organizations, and communities all over the world donate their time, skills, voice, dollars, and resources to charities worldwide!

So far, Yiya has brought engineering lessons to the classrooms of more than 300 students in Northern Uganda!

Now, we want to do more…

#GivingTuesday kicks off Yiya’s annual holiday fundraiser! This holiday season we are hoping to raise $6,000 to expand our program to 2 new schools and reach a total of 500 students in 2019!!!

Every dollar raised goes towards providing engineering training, teacher manuals, student journals, and materials kits so that more students in Uganda have the opportunity to engage in engineering projects that benefit their communities!

In addition, our crowdfunding platform will be matching all donations on #GivingTuesday (Nov 27th).

Please support Yiya this Nov 27th at Happy Giving!

Please support our students today!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Very warm thanks to YOU!

As this holiday season kicks off, our Yiya family would like to thank everyone in our community of support for your generosity over the past year. Whether you donated time, resources, expertise, or much needed funds, we are so very grateful for all you do!

Your generosity of spirit is what keeps the Yiya programs going and ensures that our engineering projects reach the classrooms of 300+ students in Northern Uganda.

From the bottom of our hearts, please receive a very warm THANK YOU from our team, our teachers, and our student-engineers!!!

Happy, happy Thanksgiving 2018!

Yiya Staff Denis working with Rapha Girls.JPG

Happy Thanksgiving!

An amazing judging panel!

Thanks to our amazing judges!

The Yiya team would like to send a big heartfelt thanks to the experts who volunteered their time to judge the 2018 Yiya Interschool Competition & Community Showcase!

We are so grateful for their expertise, consideration, and the time they took to thoughtfully engage with all our student-engineers and teachers, viewing their prototype demonstrations and listening to them explain how their designs worked! They gave great feedback to students and helped them to raise the bar even higher!

Many, many thanks to the following guest judges:

Head Judge Richard Luuba

Richard is the Program Director at Educate!, an organization teaching entrepreneurship to students in Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda. He is passionate about providing opportunities to young people so they can improve their livelihoods and wellbeing!

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Judge Victor Kawagga

Victor is the founder of Glocal Interactives and a star robotics instructor at Oysters & Pearls, a blind-inclusive STEM education program working in many regions of Uganda.

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Judge Jacob Odur

Jacob is the Country Director at Oysters & Pearls, a dedicated robotics instructor, and a lifelong tech enthusiast!

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Judge Ntananga Phyllis

Phyllis is the Program Manager at Oysters & Pearls, a passionate programming instructor, and the Regional Coordinator for the Uganda branch of the international Technovation competition.

Judge phyllis with students of ST. Katherine.JPG

Judge Marion Arecho

Marion is currently studying at Makerere University to earn her Masters in quantitative economics. She is a part-time member of the Yiya team and a lifelong teacher!

Judge Marion.JPG

Yiya Engineering Showcase

“What Yiya is doing is actually in our plan as government to teach STEM to students and science teachers, but we haven’t yet started implementing it. So, Yiya is helping us to achieve our goal.”

-District Inspector of Schools, Lira (Chief Guest at the 2018 Yiya Showcase)

 In October, we held our second annual Interschool Engineering Competition & Community Showcase, hosted by St Katherine’s Secondary School in Lira, Northern Uganda.

What happens in the showcase?

After working hard as engineers from Feb-Sept, all Yiya students and teachers in our 6 partner schools came together to display their prototypes to each other and to the wider community.

This year we had 21 teachers and 260 O-Level students (9th graders) participate in this event! The gender breakdown was 143 female students and 117 male students.

Each team first participated in a technology showcase, displaying prototypes ranging from bike-powered phone chargers, gravity lights, hand sanitizers, low-cost miniature greenhouses, organic pesticides, to their processes for cultivation of IMOs.

After the technology showcase in the morning, all teams participated in a hackathon-style on-the-spot engineering challenge in the afternoon to demonstrate their skills in engineering, math, and science in real-time!

Showcase Objectives:

1.    Teams demonstrated how they applied their knowledge of science, math, and engineering to design technologies that solve real-world problems in their communities!

2.    Teams designed and built a technology in real-time! This year they used their physics knowledge of gears, pulleys, and velocity ratios to create prototypes that degrain and grind maize WITHOUT electricity!

We are so proud of the amazing prototypes that teams brought to the showcase. We were excited to see that this year, teams stepped their experimentation up a notch! Most prototypes had been measured against controls, which was a big improvement from last year and shows the kind of rigor students are now employing in their engineering design process. Well done to all teams!

Many, many thanks!

Big thanks to St Katherine’s Secondary School for hosting our showcase event this year!

Huge thanks to the Yiya field team for managing the many logistics involved in such a big event, as well as to our star judges who took great care to learn all about teams’ prototypes before coming to their final decisions.

And the results are…

The final winners were:

1st Place – Archbishop Orombi Secondary School

2nd Place – St Katherine’s Secondary School

3rd Place – Lira Town College

Thank you partner teachers!

Last but not least, a very special and warm thank you to our diligent Yiya partner teachers, who work tirelessly all year long to support engineering at their schools! You are an inspiration to your students and to us.

MIT Solve 2018 Challenges Finals in NYC!

We pitched at MIT Solve!

In late September, cofounders Samson Wambuzi and Erin Fitzgerald met in New York City during UN General Assembly week to pitch Yiya at the MIT Solve 2018 Global Challenge Finals! Yiya was among 15 finalists working in the field of education who were selected to pitch before a panel of experts in international education and the impact sector. It was such an exciting event!

You can watch our Yiya pitch at this premier social impact event here.

NOTE: Our pitch is in the Teachers and Educators video (the second video on the page), and the clip starts at 9:49 in the video.

Although we were not ultimately selected to be part of this year’s MIT Solve cohort, the MIT Solve Challenges Finals were an amazing opportunity to debut Yiya on the world stage! We’ve greatly expanded the Yiya network through the connections we made at this event and the interesting and influential people we met while there! In addition, it was a highly impactful learning opportunity for our team.

Positive feedback from judges:

We received detailed and constructive feedback from the panel of judges after our pitch. The judges felt that the Yiya program has a very inspiring and impactful model, with both an innovative approach to teacher trainings AND innovative content offered in those trainings. They appreciated our efforts to recruit and support more female students in STEM as well as our continued focus on gender balance in all our program components.

Judges’ recommendations:

The judges said they were impressed with the progress Yiya has made in only 2 years of operation and they highly encouraged us to apply next year! For 2019, they recommended that we work on defining very specific impact indicators to prove our program is achieving the results that we are aiming for, and then collect data on those indicators. They also recommended we think about what Yiya will look like at scale, and build systems now to support our eventual scale later.

This was all really exciting and helpful feedback from a panel of very experienced and knowledgeable judges. We are super excited to put it into practice and come back even stronger to the MIT Solve 2019 Challenges!

Thanks for the advice and support!

Many, many thanks to all the friends and family who supported us through this thrilling experience, including ResilientAfrica Network, Natembea Foundation, Thin Void Ltd, Unreasonable East Africa, Impact Business Leaders, Oysters & Pearls, Hridaya Yoga & Wholehearted Health, and Fundibots. We are so grateful for your support and guidance!