Edwin Obaje , TCC Africa 2020 trainee is a Biochemistry Graduate from Bowen University, located at Iwo, Osun State, Nigeria.
He is also the founder and executive director of Science Squad Africa, a science education network for young people, specifically senior science students across Africa. Science squad explores the science engagement landscape by providing yearlong opportunities for children and youth to learn and explore areas of science and technology using the latest techniques. It’s a network of young science student members come from the following African countries Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Rwanda, Zambia with an increasing membership.
TCC Africa: How did Science Squad Africa come about and what does it do?
Science Squad Africa came about due to the need to fill the gaps of the teachers and young people by engaging them outside the classroom during the covid – 19 lockdown period. We did not want young science students to stay idle at home thus we came up with several activities they could participate in virtually. We currently have 98 members from across Africa and engage in science discussions through platforms such as Whatsapp and Zoom.
We have several activities aligned for them to execute but our main one is an online science quiz called Science Battle of Brains. This online quiz takes place every weekend where two registered members are selected to encounter each other head to head to answer questions set from topics from core science subjects of Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Mathematics. This encounter happens over zoom video conferencing application with other members joining to serve as the audience. After 4 rounds the contestant that gets the highest number of questions right and with the highest number of points is declared winner and awarded.
TCC Africa: In essence through hosting virtual quizzes you are making high school students interested in STEM related subjects and science and that is how you are engaging them by creating this virtual quiz?
Yes. But also to help schools and teachers since there was loss of interest especially during the lockdown. We had many students registering for membership from home mostly from Sub Saharan Africa and I am happy to say we now have Egypt, as the first North African country.
TCC Africa: What is your postgraduate background and what made you feel the need to create a science engagement program?
I studied Biochemistry in University but dropped out and diverted to administrative duties where I currently work as at a tech company.
This made me realize how underutilized studying science in Africa is so I wanted to encourage people to embrace science not only in learning but also for economic development. We cannot convert science into economic gain if we do not have people who genuinely want to study science or are discouraged to. That’s how I decided to start up an organization that will encourage young people to see science in a different way.
TCC Africa: What made you apply to be part of the Falling Walls Engage Program?
I was interested in similar programs to push our organizations activities into the limelight and came across the Falling Walls post on Facebook. I checked through the website and discovered the Science Engagement Program among the list of programs and decided to give it a shot. I was also looking for possible sponsorship but instead ended up being shortlisted as the national representative of Falling Walls Nigeria. I am very happy to have been acknowledged by Falling Walls as more people have developed an interest in what we do.
TCC Africa: How did you learn about TCC Africa and the Science communication training?
Science Squad Africa has three focus areas; science education, research and policy and even though our main focus area for now is science education, we intend to expand into research and policy areas.
I came across TCC Africa on Facebook and discovered your communication and policy courses. We intend on being advocates for science in Nigeria and Africa at large. We want to collaborate with researchers and the government bringing this two parties together in how they can both monetize research to benefit society.
TCC Africa: The focus of the training was for how researchers can learn to communicate and talk about the activities and take advantages of media houses. People need to see who you are and what you are doing before moving to policy. Did what you learn prove helpful?
It was what I needed at that point in time. I decided to test it and see what it entails so that in the near future, I can introduce my colleagues and see how we can partner and train more people. I want to empower my team members and I feel like I’ve gotten the channel to do so.
Congratulations for being the representative of Falling Walls engage in Nigeria and also winning the Falling Walls Science Breakthrough on Science Engagement . It is good to know that you are actively involved in supporting students in appreciating science in preparation for STEM.