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Kepler Tech Lab: Developing an affordable skills-based engineering lab course in Rwanda

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2017 ASEE International Forum


Columbus , Ohio

Publication Date

June 28, 2017

Start Date

June 28, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Concurrent Paper Tracks Session II - Curriculum II

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Main Forum (Podium Presentation)

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Paper Authors


QinQin Yu University of California, Berkeley

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QinQin Yu is a physics Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley. Before starting her Ph.D., she spent one year as a part of the Kepler Tech Lab team, developing and testing a low-cost engineering teaching lab in Rwanda. She is interested in studying problems at the intersection of experimental physics and international development, including renewable energy, complex systems, and education.

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Jakob Dahl University of California, Berkeley

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Jakob Dahl is a first year chemistry graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, where he currently works on nanoparticle synthesis. Before starting graduate school, he helped develop and set up Kepler Tech Lab. He obtained his B.S. in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in June 2015.

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Alphonse Habyarimana Kepler Tech Lab

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Alphonse Habyarimana is manager & developer of Kepler Tech Lab with the aim to improve and provide hands-on learning experiences for high school students and accelerates innovation through human-centered design, workshops, outreaches, and advising. He’s a member of International Development Innovation Network and a fellow at Stanford FabLearn. Alphonse holds an Associate of Arts degree in General Studies from Southern New Hampshire University with the partnership of Kepler Kigali, where he is completing Bachelor of Arts in Management. Prior to joining Kepler in the summer of 2014, Alphonse has studied Electronics and Telecommunication for three years at the Integrated Polytechnic Regional Center and earned a professional diploma, A2. At IPRC, he involved in electrical, electronics, and telecommunication workshops which all stimulated his interest in engineering education and digital fabrication. He educates youth to help them acquaint themselves with technical skills and hands-on experiments through STEM courses and independent projects.

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Background: Developing communities often have insufficient hands-on engineering education due to two main challenges: (1) finding affordable and locally available lab equipment and (2) integrating hands-on activities into pre-existing strict theoretical curricula.

Purpose: We developed and implemented a skills-based engineering enrichment course that is both affordable (<$5000 materials costs) and teachable in a development context.

Design/Method: To test our hands-on engineering enrichment course, we offered two, four-month-long programs in programming, electronics, and scientific communication to 20 high school students in urban Rwanda from January 2016 to July 2016. Throughout the course, we assessed students on 15 competences (skills) in these categories: technical, communication, and professional. For their final assessment, students did self-guided projects, which were evaluated on the following criteria: (1) innovation, (2) feasibility/affordability, (3)relevance the student’s community and (4) relevance to competencies learned in the course.

Results: All student teams met at least 2 of the criteria in their self-guided projects and some students further developed their ideas into business ideas. Two notable examples were: 1. A proof of principle capacitor charging device for mobile phones (innovative and relevant to community) 2. A prototype for a connected series of mechanical noise shakers for scaring pests on rice fields (affordable and relevant to community)

Conclusions: We see this course as being applicable in situations where cost, teacher training, and strict curricula are challenges, including: schools unable to afford a laboratory, refugee camps, or afterschool enrichment programs.

Yu, Q., & Dahl, J., & Habyarimana, A. (2017, June), Kepler Tech Lab: Developing an affordable skills-based engineering lab course in Rwanda Paper presented at 2017 ASEE International Forum, Columbus , Ohio.

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