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 GlobalGiving.org will be matching the donations of all donors who commit to a monthly Yiya donation.

Please support Yiya this holiday season at https://goto.gg/30748. 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 GlobalGiving.org will be matching all donations on #GivingTuesday (Nov 27th).

Please support Yiya this Nov 27th at https://goto.gg/30748. 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!

Bright Light college students interact with judge Richard.JPG

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.

A student explains how they made their gravitylight.JPG

Judge Jacob Odur

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

ST. Katherine girls s.s show a judge how to make a bike powered phone charger (1).JPG

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!

Welcome Edrine!

A warm welcome to Edrine!

The Yiya team is super excited to announce our newest team member, Mr Edrine Ssemwanga! Originally from Wakiso District in Central Uganda, Edrine is a recent graduate of Ashesi University in Accra, Ghana, where he graduated in June 2018 with his undergraduate degree in Management Information Systems. During his time as a student at Ashesi, Edrine acquired a rich background in student-led initiatives aimed at reducing poverty and teenage pregnancy, as well as promoting child literacy and youth skills development. His past experience includes interning as a research assistant at Joy For Children Uganda, in Bwaise.

Edrine is joining our Programs team as the Programs Fellow, and will be supporting both our Program Director and the field team in Lira with all operations. We are so thrilled to have Edrine join our team!

In addition to his enthusiasm for community development and youth skill-building, Edrine has many promising ideas for how to incorporate the ‘A’ (arts!) into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)…so that we are not just teaching our students STEM, but in fact STEAM!

With much gratitude…

We are so grateful to Devon and David Cohn of Natembea Foundation for funding the Yiya Program Fellowship and making it possible for Edrine to join our team. Many, many thanks for your generous support!

Yiya upcycles old printers!

Revisiting Gravity Lights

If you have been following our posts since January, you probably know already that earlier this year we designed an environmental engineering curriculum on Gravity Lights that we co-taught to students with our partner teachers in Term 1. In this unit, teachers taught their students how to apply the knowledge of pulley systems and gears to design a technology of Gravity Lights and promote it to their communities to reduce on excessive use of paraffin candles for lighting in rural Uganda. Paraffin candles are a health hazard when used indoors excessively and often cause house fires that injure family members, most often small children. Gravity Lights are a great way to have safe and environmentally-friendly lighting in the home! Catch the highlights from the Term 1 Gravity Lights lessons in our Term 1 impact report here.

Issues with the first Gravity Lights prototype

Now we are taking the experiments up a notch! As true engineers, both teachers and students have been requesting advice on how to improve their Gravity Lights so that they work better and for a longer period of time. In response to their feedback, we worked with local techies to try out different materials for the gears and dynamos. The gears in the first prototype were wooden and, when machined, the gear teeth were not a standard size. The inconsistencies in gear tooth size often led to jammed gears that stopped turning and then the light would go out. In addition to the wooden gear issue, the dynamos in the first prototype were too weak to power anything beyond a small LED…these were the best dynamos that our Yiya team could source in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, but they still were not strong enough to power a light bright enough to replace a candle.

A resourceful solution!

But after much experimenting, our techie saviors came up with an ingenious idea! They took apart old printers and salvaged their internal gears and pulleys, as well as their super powerful yet small motors. Printers have motors that can give out up to 12 volts, enough voltage to power even two 0.5 watt solar bulbs! They also contain so many gears of different sizes. Now, our newest prototype uses both the gears and motors from old broken printers to supercharge the Gravity Light! This prototype can light a brighter bulb (in fact, TWO brighter bulbs) and also can run for much longer. In addition, the recycled gears turn more smoothly and don’t jam the way the wooden gears used to.

Training teachers to upcycle the printers

In our recent workshop with partner teachers in Lira District, we trained teachers to salvage gears, pulleys, and motors from dead printers to super charge their own Gravity Lights prototypes back at school. Teachers were absolutely thrilled! They are so excited to get back into the classroom in Term 3 and let students experiment to improve their prototypes with these new (old!) materials.

Teachers left the workshop fully ably to extract these resources from dead printers, as well as to assemble them between two pieces of wood in a required velocity ratio, to create Gravity Lights.  We also distributed 2-3 used printers per school as a start (students can find more if needed from local printing centers in Lira Town).

Benefits of this upcycling approach

This is a double win for our teachers and for the environment! In Uganda, the waste management system is essentially nonexistent and there are no good options for recycling electronics. Therefore, we are excited to find afterlife uses for these old printers! This is even better for our teachers and students, since printing centers are often overflowing with these dead printers and the printing center is only too happy to get rid of a few printers for free!

At the workshop, teachers noted that it is much better to use motors and gears from printers, because (1) the motors can power two bulbs, and (2) the gears have well-crafted teeth that can easily drive each other unlike the gears cut from wood that they used in Term 1.

The gears are in motion!

See here our unfinished sample of the prototype of Gravity Lights that uses materials from old printers.  We can’t share the finished Gravity Light because it is an engineering challenge for students in our partner schools, who will be sharing their improved prototypes at the Annual Yiya Interschool Engineering Competition & Community Showcase at St Katherine Secondary School in Lira on October 6th!

Come join us for this exciting event and see the students’ improved Gravity Lights in person!

Term 3 Workshop: Teachers Present!

Teacher present their own engineering units!

At Yiya, we just concluded our Term 3 teacher workshop, the final teacher workshop for the 2018 academic year!

The excitement was high as the workshop approached since teachers were looking forward to sharing the technologies that students had made in Term 2. This was the first time that our partner teachers designed their own engineering lessons and they were very proud to show off the results from students! The Yiya field team has been faithfully supporting these teachers throughout Term 2 as they developed their units and implemented them in the classroom. It was so exciting to finally bring everyone together to show off the amazing engineering projects they had designed! The technologies that teachers designed units around were: organic pesticides, low-cost greenhouses, and cultivation and application of indigenous microorganisms.

On the first day of the workshop, our partner teachers from the 6 Yiya pilot schools in Northern Uganda reflected and shared experiences on what it was like to design and teach their own engineering lesson plans in Term 2. By the end of Term 2, each school was able to complete the engineering design process through the CREATE step. On the second day of the workshop, the Yiya team helped teachers plan their lessons in Term 3, in which their students will complete the remaining steps of the engineering design process with their prototypes: the TEST and IMPROVE steps.

Sharing about how it feels to design an engineering lesson on his own, Teacher Moses from St. Katherine Girls School said “It is not easy designing our own lessons but with time, it will be easy” and Teacher Otim Ambrose from Archbishop Orombi Secondary School said he and all the teachers “appreciated the Yiya team for training us on how to design engineering lessons and also for giving us some materials to facilitate our lessons!”

We were so thrilled so see how our first cohort of educators have really grown into the role of designing engineering lessons from the subjects they teach at school. In addition, the feedback they gave each other on the lessons they designed was so constructive and tailored to both project-based learning and the national teaching syllabus. Mr. Edrine Ssemwanga, a recent graduate from Ashesi University in Ghana and our newest team member at Yiya, had this to comment about this workshop “I learnt that if you want to teach the students well, then teach their teachers right.” He added that “Yiya is indeed making learning in Northern Uganda ‘REAL’”. Read here to find out how we make learning REAL!

At this workshop, teachers were also trained on how they will teach students to improve their Gravity Lights prototypes (the technology that they created in Term 1 during our environmental engineering unit) in time for the Annual Yiya Interschool Engineering Competition & Showcase!  

Do you want to see all the technologies that our teachers have trained their students to make since last year? Then, please come and attend our inter-school engineering competition this October 6th at St. Katherine Girls School in Lira District!

Mock pitch at ResilientAfrica Network

Perfecting our pitch!

Our Yiya team is busily getting ready for the upcoming MIT Solve 2018 Challenge Finals during UN General Assembly week in New York City. Yiya was among 15 finalists working in the education sector who were selected to do a live pitch at this premier social impact event!

Yiya partner and incubator ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) has been so supportive of our team as we prep for our big pitch! They hosted a mock pitch event for Yiya cofounder Samson Wambuzi to practice the Yiya pitch in front of a live audience of local experts in the social impact sector, who then gave us feedback on the presentation and content of our pitch.

Many thanks to representatives from RAN, Unreasonable East Africa, Thin Void, and Hridaya Yoga & Wholehearted Health for attending this pitch and giving us their feedback. Many thanks also to Natembea Foundation and Impact Business Leaders for supporting us remotely and sending their advice and suggestions on the pitch as well!