Young Scientist Kenya to nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs

Young Scientist Kenya is a flagship project of Ireland in partnership with the Ministry of Education.

She is barely two months old in the country, but Irish Ambassador Fionnuala Quinlan is overseeing the unveiling of the 2019 Young Scientist Kenya exhibition that opens at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre on Saturday. The exhibition will be opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta and will run up to August 7.

Quinlan starts her tenure on a high, having replaced Dr Vincent O’Neill, who reopened the Irish Embassy in Kenya after a 26-year hiatus. Ireland has since deepened its cooperation with Kenya, and among their flagship project is the Young Scientist Kenya (YSK) in partnership with the Ministry of Education and with sponsorships from corporates.

Hashtag spoke to the new ambassador about her expectations for YSK and the exhibition that brings together projects from all the 47 counties, following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive to roll out the initiative in all counties.

YSK is a very important initiative by the two governments, why the focus on Stem (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics?

Ireland has a development story that is similar to Kenya; in terms of how Ireland developed its private sector, the agriculture sector, building strong links that missionaries set up. And YSK builds on that. It is a big boom on the entrepreneurship. The YSK has been in existence in Ireland for more than 50 years and I am, therefore, very committed in this venture.

There is a lot that happened to make Ireland move from an agrarian society to one of the most open and globalised economies in the world where you have nine out of the top ten software companies in the world. Foreign direct investment is a large part of what we do. We are hoping to nurture and support next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs working in science and engineering and all those areas that were critical to Ireland’s development.  

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What was the YSK experience like in 2018?

Last year was the first exhibition that had participation from ten counties. Some of the activities we were involved inwere extensive outreach, some science experiments, brought in mentors on maths and science to share their experience in a view to engage more students.

From the ten counties that participated, our hope was to gradually scale up. Thankfully, President Uhuru Kenyatta, the patron of the Young Scientist Kenya, recognised the potential of this forum that was in line with his government’s Big Four agenda and the Vision 2030, and requested that we roll it out nationally.

How different is this year’s exhibition?

Over the last couple of months, we have sent teams go to all the 47 counties of Kenya and reached out to more than 45,000 students to participate and we are happy that at least 235 projects will be displayed at the KICC.

Is this strictly for high school students?

On the contrary. Some of the tertiary institutions we are working with include Strathmore University and Riara University who are providing mentors for the event. In carrying out the outreach sessions, we have been relying on mentors who are drawn from various institutes. We will also have the TVET community to provide mentors to assist with the process. We are also working with the Kenya Science Congress.

What happens to winners?

We shall announce winners from each category and the overall winners. All the winners will go to the boot camps, where they will get specialised mentors. Last year’s winners developed a device that can measure power consumption in households to help them manage their electricity bills. Kenya Power has taken them up for mentorship. It can help to know which gadget or device that is consuming more power, hence manage it better.  

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