Tag Archives: Togo

NASA (US National Aeronautics and Space Administration), one of the world’s largest hackathons, and women

Elizabeth Segran’s April 19, 2016 article for Fast Company profiles some work being done at NASA (US National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to encourage more women to participate in their hackathons (Note: A link has been removed),

For the past four years, NASA has hosted the Space Apps Challenge, one of the biggest hackathons on the planet. Last year, 14,264 people gathered in 133 locations for 48 to 72 hours to create apps using NASA’s data. A team in Lome, Togo, built a clean water mapping app; one in Bangalore, India, created a desktop planetarium; another in Pasadena, California, created a pocket assistant for astronauts. This year’s hackathon happens this upcoming weekend [April 22 – 24, 2016].

While NASA has been able to attract participants from all corners of the globe, it has consistently struggled to get women involved. NASA is working very hard to change this. “The attendance is generally 80% male,” says Beth Beck, NASA’s open innovation project manager, who runs the Space Apps Hackathon. “It’s more everyman than everywoman.”

There is a mention of a 2015 Canadian hackathon and an observation Beth Beck made at the time (from the Segran article),

Beck noticed that female participation in hackathons seemed to drop after the middle school years. At last year’s hackathon in Toronto, for instance, there were two sections: one for students and one for adults. Girls made up at least half of the student participants. “The middle school girls looked like honey bees, running around in little packs to learn about the technology,” she says. “But in the main hacking area, it was all guys. I wanted to know what happens that makes them lose their curiosity and enthusiasm.”

Beck’s further observations led to these conclusions,

It turns out that women are not significantly more interested in certain subjects than others. What they cared about most was being able to explore these topics in a space that felt friendly and supportive. “They are looking for signals that they will be in a safe space where they feel like they belong,” Beck says. Often, these signals are very straightforward: they seek out pictures of women on the event’s webpage and look for women’s names on the speaker panels and planning committees. …

Another interesting thing that Beck discovered is that women who are brave enough to attend these events want to go a day early to get the lay of the land and perhaps form a team in advance. They want to become more comfortable with the physical space where the hackathon will take place and learn as much as possible about the topics. “When the hackathon then becomes flooded with men, they feel ready for it,” she says.

While men described hacking as something that they did in their spare time, the research showed that many women often had many other family responsibilities and couldn’t just attend a hackathon for fun. And this wasn’t just true in developing countries, where girls were often tasked with childcare and chores, while boys could focus on science. In the U.S., events where there was childcare provided were much more highly attended by women than those that did not have that option. …

NASA’s hackathons are open to people with diverse skill sets—not just people who know code. Beck has found that men are more likely to participate because they are interested in space; they simply show up with ideas. Women, on the other hand, need to feel like they have the appropriate battery of skills to contribute. With this knowledge, Beck has found it helpful to make it clear that each team needs strong storytellers who can explain the value of the app. …

The folks at NASA are still working at implementing these ideas and Segran’s article describes the initiatives and includes this story (Note: A link has been removed),

Last year [2015], for instance, two female students in Cairo noticed that the hackathon has specifically called out to women and they wanted to host a local chapter of the hackathon. Their professor, however, told them that women could not host the event. The women reached out to NASA themselves and Beck wrote to them personally, saying that she highly encouraged them to create their own event. That Cairo event ended up being the largest Space Apps hackathon in the world, with 700 participants and a wait list of 300. …

Kudos to Beth Beck, NASA, and those two women in Cairo.

For anyone (male/female) interested in the 2016 hackathon, it’s being held this weekend (April 22 – 24, 2016), from the NASA Space Apps Challenge homepage,

For 48-72 hours across the world, problem solvers like you join us for NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge, one of the largest hackathons in the universe. Empowered by open data, you collaborate with strangers, colleagues, friends, and family to solve perplexing challenges in new and unexpected ways — from designing an interactive space glove to natural language processing to clean water mapping. Join us on our open data mission, and show us how you innovate.

Not Just For Coders

Beginners, students, experts, engineers, makers, artists, storytellers — Space Apps is for you! We welcome all passionate problem solvers to join our community of innovators. Citizens like you have already created thousands of open-source solutions together through code, data visualizations, hardware and design. How will you make your global impact?

It’s too late to become a host for the hackathon but you may be able to find a location for one somewhere near you on the hackathon website’s Locations page. There are three locations in Canada for the 2016 edition: Toronto (waitlist), Winnipeg (still open), and Waterloo (waitlist).

Kodjo Afate Gnikou and his team in Togo create the world’s first 3D printer for less than $US100

If you want to create a 3D printer for less $US100 scavenge your parts from electronic waste products as Kodjo Afate *Gnikou and his team did according to an Oct. 11, 2013 article by Neal Ungerleider for Fast Company (Note: Links have been removed),

The small West African nation of Togo is one of the last places you’d expect to find a maker space–a workshop where inventors and tinkerers can work on new projects to their hearts content. But inside the capital city of Lome, there’s a maker space. Woelab bills itself as “Africa’s first space for democratic technology” and it’s home to Kodjo Afate Gnikou. Gnikou’s latest invention was recently unveiled, and it’s amazing: A 3-D printer made from cheap discarded electronics of the kind found all over the world.

For anyone whose geography may need refreshing, there’s this from the Wikipedia Togo essay (Note: Links have been removed),

Togo Listeni/ˈtoʊɡoʊ/, officially the Togolese Republic (French: République Togolaise), is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, where its capital Lomé is located. Togo covers an area of approximately 57,000 square kilometres (22,000 sq mi) with a population of approximately 6.7 million.

Togo is a tropical, sub-Saharan nation, highly dependent on agriculture, with a climate that provides good growing seasons. Togo is one of the smallest countries in all of Africa. The official language is French, with many other languages spoken in Togo, particularly those of the Gbe family.

An Oct. 10, 2013 posting on 3ders.org offers this about the project,

Using rails and belts from old scanners, the case of a discarded desktop computer and even bits of a diskette drive, Gnikou has created what is believed to be the first 3D printer made from e-waste.

Afate has been working on this experimental device for several months. He calls it W.AFATE, a composition of “W” WoeLab, and “Afate”.

Afate launched his project on ulule, an European crowdfunding site earlier this year, and raised more than 4,000 euro from supporters. The fund helped Afate support the cost of the original investment in time and equipment. W.AFATE 3D printer is now a working prototype. Some elements had to be bought new but, in all, his printer cost him 100 US dollars to build.

Afate says his printer can be useful on a daily basis as it can print various utensils needed in any household, that are not always easy to get hold of in west Africa.

You can find out more about Afate Gnikou’s WoeLab here (Note: You will need your French language skills),

 “Petite république numérique” au quartier Djidjolé, [Lomé,, Togo] “définitivement fablab à niveau de rue”, WɔɛLab est un lieu d’innovation partagée où s’élabore au quotidien de nouvelles approches de la collaboration productive vertueuse en contexte africain, suivant le cahier des charges- concept : #LowHighTech. Ses prérogatives sont : -Centre de Ressources Numériques, Incubateur de Technologie. Le lieu héberge en latence du potentiel technologique qui ne demande qu’à être exploité sous la double condition du libre et de la transparence. -Pépinière de structures des domaines web, numérique et TIC.  -Espace d’expression privilégiée de la Démocratie Technologique. Diffusion d’une connaissance LowHighTech accessible à tous, assistance mutuelle bénévole, accompagnement technologique gratuit pour les artisans du quartier, reconquête du pouvoir de faire, recherche d’une Intelligence Globale. -Collaboration Universitaire et Volet Recherche. Partenariats avec les centres de recherche et les écoles de design. Appui aux institutions dans la démarche de constitution de leur propre pôle Lab.

I’ll do my best with this very rough translation but as I’ve noted in previous postings, my French is rusty. This is not word for word but is an attempt to get at the meaning with the terminology that is in use here in Canada and the US, e.g., collaboration productive vertueuse is sustainable and collaborative innovation

Our fabrication lab is part of a digital enterprise, which is located in Djidjolé, neighbourhood of Lomé, Togo,, WoeLab is committed to sustainable, collaborative innovation. within the African context and according to the principles of LowHighTech Innovation: use of free materials and transparent governance. Our goals are (1) to make knowledge and equipment that benefits our community and adds to global efforts in the democratic use and production of technology and (2) to contribute to our common global intellectual pursuits.

If someone can better represent what’s being said in French, please add it in the comments or contact me directly.

There was mention of a successful crowdfunding campaign, on the French language crowdfunding platform, Ulule, which has resulted in the W.Afate 3D printer Afterwards, the WoeLab community produced a thank you video,

In searching for more information about Afate Grnkou’s 3D printer, and other projects I found this June 5, 2013 posting by Daniel Hayduck on his blog/magazine, The Developing Tray,

Last week I met someone here in Lome with an idea I can safely say I’ve never heard before.

Kodjo Afate Gnikou wants to put e-waste often dumped in West Africa to good use on Mars, building a colony for the future.

Using rails and belts from old scanners, the case of a discarded desktop computer and even bits of a diskette drive, he’s created what’s believed to be the first 3D printer made from e-waste.

The 33-year-old, who makes a living repairing cellphones and computers in his neighbourhood, says he believes this model is only the prototype for something much larger.

“I imagine e-waste and other waste being transported to Mars and I imagine a 3D printer can be sent to Mars to make homes for mankind,” says Afate.

“They all say it is merely a dream, that will never happen.”

There’s more about the W.Afate to Mars project on the 2013 spaceappschallenge.org website (from the website home page for the Paris edition (April 20 – 21, 2013) in which Afate Gnikou was participating),

The Paris edition of the Nasa Space Apps Challenge ! We are gathering experts from the aerospace field, and the developer and startup community in France, to tackle the challenges laid out during this event.

Le “International Space Apps Challenge” est une collaboration internationale sans précédent entre des agences gouvernementales, des institutions académiques et des associations et entreprises innovantes tout autour du monde.

Le Space Apps Challenge est un hackathon* international ayant lieu pendant 48 heures en même temps dans plusieurs villes autour du monde.

Congratulations to Kodjo Afate Gnikou and his team on creating a more affordable 3D printer by reusing e-waste.

* I misspelled Kodjo Afate Gnikou’s name as Grikou in my posting and have corrected this (I hope I found every instance) as of Oct. 14, 2013.