SOLIDWORKS in Rwanda – Part Five: Educating the Rwandan Youth

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

While in Rwanda, we met with the Rwanda Education Minister, and traveled each day with one of his employees, who introduced us to the school principal at each school we visited, and sat in the class along with the students, during each lesson.

On the first day of our five-day training tour in 2019, on Monday, we went to the Integrated Polytechnic Regional College in Kicukiro. After meeting with the principal, we found 60 students enthusiastically waiting for us and they all had SOLIDWORKS launched and were ready to learn. Of the 60 students, 2 were girls and the rest were boys. Engineering is still heavily dominated by boys and men so this wasn’t a surprise. However, Rwanda is known for elevating women to respected positions. 62 percent of the members of parliament in Rwanda are women. No wonder they’re growing and expanding so fast – they have excellent leadership!

The students in Kicukiro were about 18-21 years old, and all of the students had experience with SOLIDWORKS and some were more advanced than others, but everyone was able to follow along with the help of the two instructors – Rebekah Hanks, and myself, Jenn Doerksen, as well as our Rwanda team leader, Mike Puckett. Together, we designed a USB thumb drive, and then checked various possible failures using SOLIDWORKS Simulation. We handed out the same USB thumb drives that we taught them to design, which included the model files on them, along with additional exercises to try later. Their computers were slow, and almost all the monitors had pixel damage, with large black spots on the screens. The students were so thankful, after we posed for a photo, one of the students told us that it really meant a lot to them to have us give them so much attention and that they would do their best to make SOLIDWORKS and Rwanda proud. Click here for a time-lapse video of our visit to Kicukiro.

Tuesday, our second day of training, we were at Nyanza Technical School. The students were younger, around 14-17 years old, and I was very pleased to see that over 50% of the students were girls. They were sharp, and clearly had been working hard to learn SOLIDWORKS. In fact, after their lesson was complete, they got into groups and presented products that they had designed using SOLIDWORKS with a focus of helping Rwandans. We formed into a panel a judges and listened to every group, and they all did a great job, with the projects focusing on saving space, multi-purpose products, and other creative ideas. Many Rwandans live in small homes and don’t have the space that Canadians and Americans have in our homes. The winners’ product was called “4-in-1 Dust Bin” which was a bin with four compartments, for recycling, organics, non-organics, and also a fourth compartment with fresh water to wash hands.

On Wednesday, our third day of training was at TSS Nyamata. Everyone was eager and excited to learn. Unfortunately, most of the computers were not ready for us. Some didn’t have SOLIDWORKS installed, others were simply not activated, and there was no internet available. So nearly 30 students gathered around six computers to learn the lesson. In the end, everyone learned something but not everyone got to try it themselves. SOLIDWORKS VP of Strategy & Business Development, Suchit Jain, spoke to the students about FIRST Robotics, and some of the students were interested to design robots themselves.

On Thursday, we went to Tumba College of Technology. There, we taught teachers who learned SOLIDWORKS so that they could then teach their students. Tumba is up in the mountains at the end of a series of severe switchbacks, over 2km above sea level, and I was thankful for that – this day was the only day I didn’t sweat.

On Friday we went to the University of Rwanda, in the College of Science & Technology. The computers weren’t ready for the class, and there was no teacher or school facilitator so we started on our own. We found that often, people were on “Rwanda time.”  As always, we gave out the USB thumb drive we were designing, and as the class went on, more and more students appeared and said they didn’t get a drive. We quickly realized the students were texting their friends to come get some free swag, and the class started with about 25 students and ended with about 70 people in the class! Oh well, I was happy to teach anyone willing to attend the class.

Go to Part Six

Jenn Doerksen

Jenn Doerksen

Jenn Doerksen works for Dassault Systemes SOLIDWORKS, as a Sr. Industrial Process Consultant. She has been part of the SOLIDWORKS community since early 1997, when she bought her first license of SOLIDWORKS. She has a Bachelor’s of Engineering from the University of Victoria and lives with her husband and their dogs in Vancouver BC, Canada.