Teenage South African Girls are Building Africa's First Private Satellite

by Shonette Reed

When considering the construction of satellites, our minds drift towards experts, that’s not the case with this group of South African girls powering Africa’s first private satellite.

Set to launch in the first quarter of 2016, the invention will be a celebration in African innovation as well as a shift in female participation who would have let the “geeky boys” handle such a task in the past.

The project was backed by MEDO – Meta Economic Development Organisation – which allowed the girls to work during the course of the programme, engineering their own ‘jiggy-bot.’ The next part of the project will be carried out during week-long camps over school holidays called SPACETrek.

“The intention of this programme is not to be a once-off,” said MEDO CEO Judi Sandrock. “It is to be the start of at least a decade-long drive to inspire young people to enter the science and technical fields.”

The shortage in technical skills required for business building motivated MEDO to launch a technology and engineering programme. The company observed that young women are not brought up in “technically passionate” households, with the number of technical degree applicants declining annually.

At this stage, according to the Pulse, young women who make it through the early stages of the program will move forward in their experiments. This will require testing them with the aid of radio communication and high altitude weather balloons.

Expected to inspire young women, the programme is equipping them with the knowledge the need to face the challenges of being in a previously male-dominated field. Of course, such a thing can only be considered when young women choose fields in the realm of math, science, technology and engineering.

Students like Nina-Rose Clarke of Pinelands High School have been inspired to add diversity to the fields of math, science, engineering and technology.

“I never thought building things could be this interesting,” said Clarke on RisingAfrica.org. “I am loving this experience. It’s so exciting to be exposed to more than just drawing and studying ideas. Constructing stuff is so much better.”

Photo: Ventures Africa

Shonette Reed is regular contributor for Coloures and For Harriet from Los Angeles, Calif. With plans to break into the fashion industry as a fashion reporter, she runs her own style blog. Her aim is to highlight the important contributions of women of color in the fashion industry as well as give women of color more exposure within the leading magazines in fashion. You can follow her on twitter @ShonetteReed.