Time to CREATE!

Time to CREATE!

This week in schools, teachers and their students are engaged in the CREATE step of the engineering design process! Throughout July they identified common challenges in the agricultural sector in Northern Uganda, then researched different solutions, brainstormed how they could use their science and math skills to design a brand new (or improved!) solution, made engineering plans and gathered materials...and now it is time to CREATE their first prototypes!

At Rapha Girls' School, teachers have designed an agricultural engineering unit on solutions to the challenges that persistent drought causes in their community. The students are designing small, low-cost greenhouses made from locally available resources to trap water released during the evapotranspiration process of plants. These greenhouses will prevent the water from evaporating so that the plants inside can reuse it once it has condensed back into the ground. 

In previous weeks students have done research on the water cycle as well as conducted experiments testing how much moisture different plants release during evapotranspiration. Now they are applying this knowledge to create their greenhouses! Each team of Yiya students at Rapha is building their own "mini-greenhouse" for the first prototype, which they will test later in August once all greenhouses are complete!

See the photos below of students building their greenhouses! Well done, Rapha girls!

Young Achievers Awards 2018 Finalist: Samson Wambuzi!

Yiya Cofounder Samson Wambuzi named as a Young Achievers Award 2018 Finalist!

Join us as we celebrate our nomination in this year’s Young Achievers Awards as finalists in the category of business! Yesterday evening Yiya co-founder Samson Wambuzi was officially unveiled in a glamorous gala at Serena Hotel Kampala, alongside the other 2018 nominees. It was so epic!  Click here to watch the moment when we were being announced.

The judges said they received over 400 applications; they reviewed all of them and then selected the final five per category. They also shared that the judging criteria centered around:

  1. originality of the idea
  2. quality of execution
  3. how it inspires other people
  4. social responsibility (i.e., how the innovation improves other people’s lives).

We are so excited to see that our innovation is doing well in these criteria!

Over the next two weeks, we will be making presentations before judges who will then select the overall winner in each category. Winners will receive their accolades in an award ceremony that will take place on August 18th at the Kampala Serena Hotel. We are hopeful that we will win, although we are the youngest organization in this category. Other nominees have been around for more than 4 years!

The Young Achievers Awards (YAA) is a project of Reach A Hand Uganda, aimed at recognizing and celebrating outstanding youth in the Ugandan community that have excelled in various realms such as the Arts, Entrepreneurship, Media and Journalism, Philanthropy, Innovation, Sports among others.

We are so very proud of Samson for being selected as a 2018 finalist...and we are excited to learn of the final award winners in two weeks. Well done, Sam!

2018 Term 2 Lessons Update!

We are so excited to share with you updates from the agricultural engineering unit lessons that teachers in the Yiya program are teaching this term to students in their schools. Unlike in previous terms, when the Yiya team has taken the lead in designing engineering units and then co-teaching them (with our partner teachers) at schools, this term we have supported our partner teachers to design an agricultural engineering unit of their very own! After designing their unique unit in teacher groups, partner teachers are co-teaching students together during Yiya lesson blocks, with the support of the Yiya field team. The lessons in these agricultural engineering units teach students how to apply the classroom knowledge of science, agriculture, and mathematics to design a technology that solves one of three major agricultural problems found in Lira District, Northern Uganda: destructive crop pests, persistent drought, and lack of post-harvest storage for perishable produce.

A small subsistence eggplant crop at a farmer's home in Lira District - Northern Uganda

A small subsistence eggplant crop at a farmer's home in Lira District - Northern Uganda

Our team has been hard at work supporting and observing teachers as they teach these units that they designed. These lessons are so special because, after every lesson, the Yiya team member who observed and supported the lesson meets with the parter teachers who taught the lesson, to reflect on how the lesson went. The Yiya team and the teachers together discuss how R-E-A-L the lesson plan was and what the implementation felt like. Everyone shares positive and constructive feedback from their own perspective. Click here to read about Yiya's recommended “REAL” teaching criteria.

During each post-lesson group reflection, Yiya team members and our partner teachers use an innovative lesson reflection tool that we developed. Please click here to see our innovative lesson reflection tool.

A poster made by Yiya partner teachers for their staff room at Archbishop Orombi Comprehensive Secondary School, reminding themselves to keep their teaching R-E-A-L!

A poster made by Yiya partner teachers for their staff room at Archbishop Orombi Comprehensive Secondary School, reminding themselves to keep their teaching R-E-A-L!

We strongly believe that program activities such as these teacher-led agricultural engineering units and group reflection sessions will equip and empower teachers to transform education into a student-centered journey focused on developing STEM skills through community-based engineering projects!

Examining the damage caused by destructive bacteria wilt to groundnut plants (the local name for Ugandan peanuts!)

Examining the damage caused by destructive bacteria wilt to groundnut plants (the local name for Ugandan peanuts!)

Do you want to see one of the lessons conducted by these Yiya-trained teachers? Very easy! Click here to watch part of the lesson that a Yiya partner teacher, Mr. Musa Ramathan, conducted at Rapha Girls Secondary School, Lira District, this past week. In this lesson, Mr. Musa, Mr. Baker, and their students were checking on the experiments that student teams had designed and set up in the previous lesson to evaluate the transpiration rate of different plants. This is one lesson in a larger unit in which students are researching, designing, prototyping, testing, and improving a low-cost greenhouse made from locally available materials, which can protect crops during the drought season in Northern Uganda!

Agricultural engineering unit! Teachers teaching it!

This term, Yiya-trained teachers in our partner schools are teaching students to use the classroom knowledge of science and mathematics to engineer a technology that solves a community challenge!  We gave an opportunity to our teachers to design an agricultural engineering unit that is aligned to the subject topics they teach at lower secondary. The agricultural technology that teachers are teaching will solve one of three common agricultural problems found in Northern Uganda: Destructive crop pests, long periods of drought, and post-harvest storage of perishable crop produce.  

Some of the technologies teachers have experimented with include: making a well formulated organic pesticide from certain plant extracts, designing a low-cost greenhouse that uses local materials, and mechanical water pumps! We are so proud of our teachers who worked to put in great effort to conduct the necessary research, design lessons, and conduct these lessons with students in their schools. Students in our partner schools are indeed experiencing what we at Yiya call “REAL” learning. Read here about our definition of “REAL” learning!

We are so grateful to our Yiya field team who are diligently supporting these teachers as they conduct their agricultural engineering lessons this term. Please come and see the students' final prototypes of these technologies at our annual Yiya Interschool Engineering Competition this coming October!

Launched competition prep activities!

The Yiya Interschool Engineering Competition season 2 is here! This week we have been in our partner schools in Northern Uganda pitching the competition and launching preparation activities. Our students are hard at work improving on the technologies they will showcase at the competition next term on October 6th, 2018.

This year, each school will showcase five technologies that they have designed to solve community problems. Four of the technologies have been developed through Yiya engineering units, and one is a technology of choice that each school is creating independently! 

Our field team has already shared the judging criteria with all participating schools and is supporting partner teachers and their students as they make preparations to ensure that the technologies schools are bringing will meet the Yiya judging criteria! Click here to see our judging rubric.

In even more exciting news, the hack-a-thon will be back at this year's competition! Schools will participate in an on-spot engineering challenge in the afternoon of the competition, after judges have reviewed their five technologies. In response to feedback from last year's competition, our Yiya partner teachers will be trained in early September on how to prep students for the hack-a-thon's test of on the spot creativity and teamwork. 

Please plan to attend this competition next term on Saturday October 6th, 2018 at St. Katherine Girls Secondary School in Lira District - Northern Uganda. More details to follow in the coming months!

Yiya 2018 Term 1 Impact!

Exciting news on impact!

We have crunched the numbers from our Term 1 teacher and student surveys, which cover the period from February-April this year when our Yiya team co-taught the Going Green! Mechanical Engineering: Creating Gravity Lights unit with teachers in our partner schools. This unit taught the math and science of gears and pulley systems in a hands-on, interactive way as students researched, designed, prototyped, tested, and improved gravity lights to provide free, environmentally-friendly night time lighting in their communities! Our teacher and student impact surveys are administered at the beginning and end of each school term to participating teachers and students in our partner schools, as well as non-participating teachers and students (our controls) in the same partner schools!

Attendance Data

In Term 1, student attendance at the Yiya lessons was 90%. In this time, female students constituted 61% of students at Yiya lessons and male students made up 39%. Partner teacher attendance was 88%.

Student Academic Impact

On the baseline survey before participating in the gravity lights unit, 61% of students correctly answered the physics question by calculating the velocity ratio in a simple 2-gear system. On the endline survey, this number jumped to 100% of students answering this physics question correctly! So cool!

For the complex gear system question (which required students not only to calculate velocity ratio but also APPLY this knowledge to a system that had multiple gears), 0% of Yiya students answered correctly on the baseline survey... But on the endline, 83% of students got it right! This huge academic gain for students shows that engaging with the concepts in a hands-on way helps students to truly understand physics knowledge, and enables them to apply it in more complicated situations. We are pumped!

Yiya benefits for students

When asked what the most important benefit of the Yiya program is, 62% of students self-reported that the most important benefit was learning how to create technologies that help solve problems in their communities.

Yiya benefits for teachers

When asked what the most important benefit of the Yiya program is, 54% of Yiya partner teachers self-reported that the most important benefit was their increased knowledge in hands-on, interactive, and engaging teaching strategies. In addition, 90% of partner teachers requested that the Yiya program be extended to more teachers at their school!

We are so excited by these program results from 2018 Term 1 and look forward to seeing what new gains our teachers and students make this term, in Term 2! We are endlessly grateful to our hard-working Yiya field team, our passionate and dedicated partner teachers, and the generous support of the Yiya community which makes this program possible for our brilliant student-engineers! Thank you, thank you!

Partnership between Yiya Solutions and Oysters & Pearls

We are excited to announce that our partnership with Oysters and Pearls, an EduTech organization in Gulu, has grown stronger! This month, our team conducted a 3-day training on innovative teaching and team building strategies with STEM trainers at Oysters & Pearls. This workshop was a professional development opportunity for trainers of all abilities, as approximately half the instructors were visually impaired. This was our first time training a mixed ability group of educators, and both the Yiya staff and the Oysters & Pearls team had a blast!

To ensure the training was accessible for all participants, our Yiya team sent workshop handouts to the O&P team the week before the training so they could be translated into braille. We also did some slight tweaking of our activities to emphasize tactile and auditory components of the learning experience. Most importantly, we practiced all our energizers and team-building activities from the perspective of a visually impaired participant and adjusted them where the action focused too heavily on visual input. Before the training, we double-checked all our preparation in a meeting with O&P leadership, where they gave us some additional guidance and insights to help us head toward success!

What followed were three days packed full of science, technology, engineering, math, team-building, and refining skills of giving and receiving productive feedback to team members, in addition to qualitative report writing. Activities ranged from silly game-like energizers to engineering challenges to "hot seat" activities where two participants gave and received feedback in front of the entire team and then got feedback from the whole team on their feedback to each other!

The most impactful part of the workshop was when every team member had the chance to mock-teach a lesson from their subject area to the whole group and then receive feedback on their lesson, then give their own reflection on how they will implement the feedback in their teaching. According to visually impaired instructor, Abur Elizabeth, "I am really excited because next week in class I am going to use the strategies we've learned in this training to make sure my students are more engaged and energized in class and know how my lessons connect to their everyday life." That was the best feedback our Yiya team could ever receive. Thanks Elizabeth and everyone at O&P for giving us the opportunity to work with your team! Remember to keep it R-E-A-L.

Term 1 Engineering Lessons

In Term 1, we implemented our third Yiya unit in our partner schools in Lira District-Northern Uganda. This unit was called Going Green! Environmental Engineering: Creating Gravity Lights.

The Going Green! unit was designed to teach students to apply the knowledge of pulleys and gears that they study in school, to design the technology of Gravity lights and promote it in their communities. Gravity Lights will allow communities to have reading light at night in their homes, in areas where the electric grid does not reach or is too expensive for most people to connect to. Gravity Lights are a safer, cleaner alternative to kerosene candles, which endanger the environment, cause household fires, and lead to frequent burns in young children.

Before teaching students, teachers in our partner schools were first extensively trained on the Gravity Lights unit. Then, we dove into teaching!

Lesson 1 of this unit focuses on identifying and examining the effects that night-time lighting solutions have on the environment as well as people! Students were asked to research in teams about this problem using various newspaper articles and visuals, to make a report and then to choose one team member to participate in a TV-like talk show on climate change! It was so amazing to hear the views of students on climate change! Students discovered that, yes, air pollution through release of carbon gases to the environment is a big threat to the environment as this distorts the protective ozone layer, exposing the earth to direct heat from the sun which causes global warming.

In lesson 2 students investigated available technologies that can help solve this problem, and in lesson 3 students calculated velocity ratios of the gears and pulleys they used in building their technology of gravity lights. In lessons 4 and 5, students created their first prototype of gravity lights, experimented, tested and made improvements.

Students are still improving on their gravity lights so they can be ready for use. They will showcase this technology at the Annual Yiya Interschool Engineering Competition during Term 3, in October. Click here to watch Yiya Program Director Samson in action in the field during this unit.

We make learning R.E.A.L.!

In our effort to make learning more practical, engaging, hands-on, and relevant to students' lives in and outside school, we created a technique called “REAL” learning and trained teachers in our partner schools on how they can make learning “REAL!”

R.E.A.L. is actually an acronym to describe the key ingredients you need to make a lesson or learning experience impactful and memorable for your learners. When a lesson has all 4 R.E.A.L. components then learners will care about what you are teaching them, they will be excited to be in your lesson, and they will learn very effectively!

These are the four R.E.A.L. components:


What you are teaching learners should be related to their lives. It should be easy for them to see how your lesson is important to their lives outside of school. When you make lesson content that is relevant, then learners CARE about what they are learning…this motivates them to study hard and learn the content very well!


As the teacher (or trainer), it is your job to keep energy high in your classroom! When the learning environment is dull or boring, learners lose interest and become disengaged. Keep your lessons energizing by involving learners in demonstrations, giving them activities to do in groups, letting them move around the classroom for certain activities, and also by running quick 2 minute active “energizers” when energy levels drop.


Get your learners to participate by having them work on practical, hands-on activities in groups. Every lesson should ALWAYS have at least one group activity where learners are actively working together in small groups. This allows them to practice the 21st century skills of collaboration, communication, and negotiation. The more learners actively practice what you are teaching them, the better they will remember it later!


In traditional teaching, the teacher is the center of the lesson. However, when learning is REAL, the learners become the center of the lesson. This means that in every lesson, your learners should do most of the thinking, talking, deciding, and leading. When you structure your lessons this way, learners are more proactively involved in their learning and as a bonus, it is less work for you as a teacher! Example: when teaching geography of the seven continents, instead of making/buying maps for learners ahead of time and trying to get them to memorize using these learning aids…you can assign each group of learners to make a map for one continent, and then have each group teach all the countries in their assigned continent to their fellow learners. This is less work for you and also learners will learn more by becoming the teacher!

Below are some pictures of the four REAL components in action, in different Yiya lessons and trainings!

STEM Educator Training (SET!)

Yayyy! We did it!

We conducted a week long skills-based STEM educator training in Lira. This was our first STEM training that was open to the public.

The SET was full of practical, hands on activities that were designed to demonstrate to teachers how they can make science, technology, engineering, and math subjects (STEM) more engaging, relevant, hands-on, and practical in the classroom.

In this training, participants undertook multiple engineering projects which included: creating fizzy bath bombs to illustrate the chemical reaction of citric acid + sodium bicarbonate + water, making homemade ice cream to teach the thermodynamics of condensation, and building a bicycle-powered cell-phone charger!

In addition to technical topics, teachers practiced mentoring one another by observing each other's mini-lessons during the workshop and then giving and receiving feedback. They highlighted the most beneficial aspects of professional development that Yiya brings to teachers and brainstormed how they can extend the lessons they've learned in Yiya to other non-Yiya teachers, both in their schools and in nearby schools throughout their communities.

Participants were also given an engineering challenge to design a technology that solves one of these 3 agricultural problems: Crop pests, drought, and lack of post-harvest storage for perishable crop produce. This term, teachers are teaching students how to design and build the agricultural technology that they developed at our STEM training.

We were also honored to have the Head Teacher of Lira Town College at this training as a guest speaker at the SET celebration on the last day of the training!