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Since the beginning of the space era, world leaders have expressed how space symbolizes common aspirations and dreams of humanity. The United Nations, in particular, emphasizes the important contributions of space science and technology in achieving sustainable development goals and increasing the well-being of people across the world. In this spirit, education in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) plays an influential role in shaping the dreams of children who will become our future scientists, astronomers and astronauts.

Image of African Children being handed an award

To inspire children to pursue such ambitions, SERVIR-Eastern and Southern Africa (E&SA) at the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) in Nairobi, Kenya, held their second annual RCMRD Space Challenge from July 9-13, 2018. This event introduced primary and secondary students to geospatial technology and how weather data is applied to monitor Earth’s changes.

Mirroring the work done by scientists, the RCMRD Space Challenge program showcases to primary and secondary schools the importance of data collection, analysis and interpretation for monitoring and responding to various weather and environmental conditions. With a theme of “Schools in Action,” this year’s competition was level specific with primary and secondary schools having different sets of challenges.

Rachel Kwamboka, a student from St. Scholastica Primary School, said that she had always wanted to be a lawyer, then thought about becoming a medical doctor but had now settled on becoming a scientist. “From the time I joined the team working on the RCMRD Space Challenge, I decided that I should be a scientist as I will not only benefit the community but the environment, as well as teaching others about conserving the environment and the globe.”

Over the course of five days, teams were required to download and aggregate monthly weather data from two TAHMO stations, send the data to SERVIR E&SA/RCMRD for harmonization, and write summary reports on findings to be presented to a group of judges. Schools were ranked based on participation of all the students during the oral presentation; and on the quality of the findings and analyses in their reports.

A total of 14 Secondary and 6 Primary schools participated in the 2018 RCMRD Space Challenge in Kenya, with the top 3 schools in each category receiving awards. All the schools received a certificate of participation. Given the program’s success, RCMRD will be holding another space challenge in Uganda on October 5, 2018 through its partnerships with Makerere University, GLOBE, TAHMO, Akorion, as well as Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Ministry of Lands and Housing Development.

“We are proud to be associated for the 2nd year running with this Space Challenge Programme,” observed Prof. John Kiema, the Director for Technical Services at RCMRD. “This resonates very well with our purpose to promote sustainable development in our member States and beyond by making use of Earth Observation data among other data sets that we employ. I want to reiterate that Science can also be fun, it is important that we look at science from that perspective as young people particularly.”

image of African students accepting award

SERVIR connects space to village by helping developing countries use satellite data to address critical challenges in food security, water resources, weather and climate, land use, and natural disasters. A partnership of NASA, USAID, and leading technical organizations, SERVIR develops innovative solutions to improve livelihoods and foster self-reliance in Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

Convening over 200 students from schools across Kenya and neighboring countries, SERVIR-E&SA’s RCMRD Space Challenge was made possible through partnerships with Kenya’s Ministry of Education, 4-H Kenya, Trans-African HydroMeteorological Observatory (TAHMO), the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Kenya Programme.

The top three secondary schools were: Sirua Aulo High School in Kilgoris, Narok County, ranking first with 84 points; Maseno High School in Kisumu Rural Constituency, Kisumu County achieving second place with a total of 83 points; and Sacred Heart Mukumu Girls Secondary School in Shinyalu Constituency of Kakamega County in third with a total of 79.7 points.

Kitololoni Primary School, a Public Primary school located in Gachoka Constituency, Makima Location, Mwea Division within the Mbeere District of Embu County, emerged tops among the Primary Schools with a total of 77 points. St. Scholastica Academy Primary School in Kasarani Constituency, Nairobi County, was number 2 with 76.7 points and Visa Oshwal Primary School, a Public Primary school located in Westlands Constituency in Nairobi County, was in third place with a total of 73.3.

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