May 29, 2018
Lucia Otsetswe (green body warmer) and Selinah Baalafeng (white shirt) demonstrating the Signcoach
BITRI participated in the annual Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Festival from 16th to 19th April 2018 at the BIUST campus in Palapye.
The motivation for the theme was to help to cultivate links between science, engineering and technology to entrepreneurship and industry as Botswana strives to transform from a resource-based economy to knowledge-based one. The Festival featured panel discussion sessions with panelists from diverse backgrounds that included, but were not be limited to learners, academia, policy-makers, and entrepreneurs.
The BITRI Chief Executive Officer Professor Shedden Masupe made a Keynote Presentation and led the discussion on the festival’s theme “STEM-Driven Economy: Transforming Research into Profitable Products and Services”. In his presentation the CEO noted that Botswana should strive to towards a STEM-driven economy by transforming research into profitable products and services. Prof Masupe said the country can only begin to realise a STEM-driven economy if there is regulatory framework and an enhanced trust in local products, lamenting that the challenge at the moment, is that the country imports products and services where the same are available in the country. To illustrate his point, he gave an example of where consultancies are given to foreigners and then those foreigners sub-contracts Batswana to do the consultancy, emphasising that Botswana products are as good as those that are imported from elsewhere. Prof Masupe implored Batswana and residents to develop trust and buy Botswana-produced products and services.
On giving the Overview of the event, BIUST Vice Chancellor Prof. Otlogetswe Totolo said the festival provided a platform where innovations and inventions are acknowledged, celebrated and nurtured. He added that the festival also provides a forum for innovators and inventors, researchers and academia to showcase their inventions, concepts and final products. Prof Totolo said current and future conditions require lecturers and academics to move beyond demonstrating their knowledge through journal publications, an undertaking that provides little to no value to the economy, but rather, play an active role by developing curricula that serve the needs of the industry and doing research and developing solutions that address societal needs, especially the rural communities.
Botswana Power Corporation Chief Executive Officer, Dr Stefan Schwarzfischer, also augmented on the position made by Prof Masupe’s presentation on creating linkages between what is taught in lecture rooms and laboratories, and the present and future skills needs of industries that STEM graduates have an impact on. Dr Botswana Power Corporation chief executive officer, Dr Stefan Schwarzfischer said students should not simply study so they could find employment, but also aspire to become entrepreneurs and create employment and enhance economy activity in the market and beyond.
BITRI exhibited some of the notable projects such as the Signcoach application that teaches Botswana sign language to aid communication between the deaf and the general public, the Morabaraba game, as well as the mhele game, which is still in the development stage.
This annual event presents a platform for learners (pre-tertiary and tertiary), researchers and inventors to showcase and celebrate their innovations and inventions, and serves to allow public institutions and industry to showcase their contribution to national socio-economic advancement, as well as, to buttress the relevance and criticality of STEM. The event was organised in partnership with BIUST, United Nations Educational Scientific, Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology (MOTE), Ministry of Basic Education (MOBE) and the private sector.