Guest post by Ryme Assaad, Mel Azzi, Stephanie Bassil and Farah Shouman, 2018 fellows of Lebanon
Editor’s note: The 2018 fellows of Lebanon were one of five country cohorts to receive a $3,000 seed grant to support the implementation of their action plan that was developed during the 2018 TechWomen program. In addition to mentorship and cultural activities, TechWomen participants collaboratively work to develop an action plan to address a socioeconomic issue in their community alongside Impact Coaches.
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” – Coretta Scott King
It all started with a glimpse of inspiration, enthusiasm, obligation and teamwork. These factors initiated our dream to start an initiative to coach community members, specifically youth, to deploy the latest technology in solving the most pressing environmental challenges facing our country of Lebanon.
The problem and the inspiration
Before we jump into our project, My ioLab, let’s lay the background behind the initiative. For decades, Lebanon has been floundering in a waste management crisis with lack of proper recycling options. The situation further deteriorated in 2015 when a huge landfill site closed and government authorities failed to implement a contingency plan, allowing contractors to shift the trash to coastal dumps. Our idea to address this issue was sparked during the TechWomen 2018 action plan workshops, when we visited a hackerspace called Noisebridge and were amazed by a large video display called Flaschen Taschen made out of clear glass bottles and milk crates. The display was part of an upcycling project made for the San Francisco Bay Area’s annual MakerFaire. Right then, the idea hit us! Why not apply tech innovation in reducing our country’s waste? And that’s where our journey began.
My ioLab coming to light
Two of our team members, Farah and Ryme, were mentored at TechWomen host company Mozilla, and our group was able to work alongside Mozilla’s senior product manager of WebThings and TechWomen Professional Mentor Kathy Giori. We leveraged Mozilla’s WebThings Gateway, which provided an open source IoT (Internet of Things) framework for us to conduct live demonstrations and hands-on exercises in STEAM-based workshops. At the workshops we organized and conducted, we educate youth and inspire them to innovate and scale up their IoT knowledge. The main objectives of these workshops are to involve the students and empower their inner entrepreneur to create solutions for the environment.
At our workshops, we aim to deliver on My ioLab’s learning objectives and hope that participants can:
- Comprehend the importance of recycling and upcycling, and develop a habit of using recyclable materials in prototype building
- Gain an introduction to coding using MakeCode and MicroBlocks
- Learn about Micro:bit basics and its advantages
- Understand the benefits of IoT and how to model, connect, analyze and build an IoT platform
- Acquire skills in the use and functionality of sensors used in IoT applications
My ioLab in action
This April, MyioLab collaborated with Girls Got IT, an initiative co-founded by 2013 TechWomen fellow Nisreen Deeb, to provide two workshops in Beirut and Mount Lebanon. Girls Got IT aims to encourage girls to pursue STEAM careers through interactive workshops on robotics, 3D printing and more. We are very pleased to be part of this collaboration and to contribute in such an important sphere.
Thanks to the TechWomen seed grant and generous donations from our sponsor Robot Pi Shop, we were able to provide each workshop participant with a full kit of hardware. Our third workshop took place a month later at the Central Asia Women in Tech and Science Week after we joined the TechWomen delegation trip to Uzbekistan. Shortly after, we assisted in Mozilla’s workshop, “Developing and Deploying WebThings” at the JSconf EU in Berlin followed by the same workshop in JSconf Singapore last month.
The wise words of Mrs. Asmahan Zain, president of the Lebanese League of Women in Business, provided us with our motto at this stage: “Change can only happen if we believe in it and create opportunities for it to exist and affect. We need to continue breaking the stereotypes of our societies. By bridging the gender gap and creating fully empowered and engaged citizens in our young female generation with STEAM education tools, we will achieve just that.”
By using STEAM to teach the next generation about recycling, we hope to positively impact Lebanon’s waste crisis. We see this trash crisis as an opportunity for the community to come together and creatively address local challenges. We are planning to reach out to the broader TechWomen community in hopes of finding future collaboration opportunities with fellows in other countries, sharing our comprehensive tutorials and hardware kits in order to widen our network and spread our vision.
We will continue conducting workshops, building partnerships and creating a community of passionate individuals who advocate for positive social environmental change through revolutionizing software and hardware, design and creation.
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