Education Outreach in Kenya

Along with three other PhD students, Jared Coyle, Jamie Kennedy, and Dr. Fontecchio traveled to Kenya to visit schools and teach high school students courses in engineering and science in the town of Kikuyu and the village of Githumu. The trip is funded by the National Science Foundation's GK12 Program, a $2.9M grant over five years given to Drexel University. The program finances 10 engineering graduate students who work with inner city Philadelphia schools on a regular basis. The purpose of the program’s extension is to help connect high schools in Kenya with the schools in Philadelphia. The Drexel Engineering students will work to integrate the National Academy of Engineering's Grand Challenges for Engineering into everything taught in the classroom with a common mission of offering students from underprivileged backgrounds exposure to the global nature of the world's engineering problems.

Jamie Kennedy's afterschool engineering program was on filtering swamp water using locally grown cacti, and Jared Coyle, had a unique role this year mentoring teachers on the skills necessary to run collaborative efforts between Philadelphia and Kenya. He also was a guest lecturer on his own graduate research at the University of Nairobi and Jomo Kenyatta University.

“What we are doing is transformational because it brings the global reality of the engineering challenges we face into perspective. Underprivileged American inner city students gain exposure to other cultures and to advanced engineering projects. Rural high school students from Kenya gain similar exposure, plus access to the expertise of PhD students in engineering through hands-on projects tailored to maximize student learning,” says Coyle. “And lastly, our PhD graduate students gain the professional and pedagogical skills necessary to operate cross-culturally, which is a fundamental skill when in a diverse environment such as Drexel. And all this is done at a cost of about $20 per student, which is significantly lower than comparable programs that receive federal sponsorship.”

More than 400 students have applied to participate at the two schools in Kenya and Drexel’s doctoral students hope to take at least 200 students in their programs and then train teachers to continue to do collaborative projects with the Philadelphia Schools- Drexel University, Philadelphia High School for Girls, Science Leadership Academy (Philadelphia), Munoru Highlands School for Boys and Alliance High Schools.

To learn more about the National Science Foundation’s GK12 program, click here.

Adam Fontecchio