By Onche Odeh
Africa’s next technology hub may just be tucked away in Yangoji, a village settlement that is about 80 kilometers and one hour twenty minutes’ drive from the city centre in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
Located in the sparsely populated satellite town of Kwali, one of Abuja’s four satellite area councils, Marist College, a co-educational high school owned by the Catholic Church established in 2011 with just 59 boys and 16 teachers has refused to be daunted by its distant proximity to high profile civilization.
The students have taken advantage of the school’s serenity to get their hands on, churning out technological innovations and solutions that are helping to bridge the intelligence gap among the students.
Using the Internet of Things (IoT), a system of interrelated, internet-connected objects that allow the collection and transfer of data over a wireless network without human intervention, students of the school have been able to create devices and solutions that are already bracing international headlines.
The school recently got a five million grant from Nigeria’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation to do further works on two devices developed by the teenage students to monitor air and water quality.
Mr. Romanus Aye, the teacher in charge of innovation at the school who gave details about how the devices work said they help detect elevated levels of harmful materials in the air and water.
“The air quality monitoring device called SenseBox and water quality monitor tagged ‘AquaBot’ are both able to detect elevated levels of harmful particles, chemicals, major pollutants in the air and water respectively and quickly relay the information to users via computers and smart phones in a format that is easy to understand.” Aye told Africasti.
“The devices are local content driven and are built using the internet of things technology. They provide real time data for smart air and water quality monitoring,” he further disclosed.
Nigeria’s Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu said the innovative disposition of the students of Marist College rekindles hope that Nigeria may be well positioned to become a global hub for creativity.
It would be recalled that the Co-creation Hub located in the heart of Yaba in Nigeria’s commercial city of Lagos once hit global limelight after the visit of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook in 2016. The hub gained prominence for being an incubation ground for many young Nigerian start-ups and other nationals who are willing to horn their ICT skills.
The Nigerian Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation has said Marist College would be given every necessary support to attain such level of relevance.
He said the devices that have been developed by the students would be patented through one of its agencies, the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) at no cost to the school.
Beyond the two devices, the school has been able to develop other solution platforms for the educational sector as well.
The Stella Math platform developed by the school is designed to simplified teaching, learning and school administration. For learning, the platform has e-learning modules that help students to access notes, do assignment module and continue learning away from school with ease. They could also attempt quizzes at the convenience of their device, be it mobile phone or PC using the platform.
The platform also allows easy teaching by ensuring swift upload of termly academic notes, lesson plans and management of timetables which could be accessed from anywhere. Students could also be graded automatically with multi choice questions using the platform.
Marist College may have found a perfect platform to reach out to the world with their innovations in Students for the Advancement for Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE), an international program initiated at the California State University Chico USA in 2002 to help create the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders whose innovations and social enterprises address the major unmet needs of the global community.
The school joined the body in November 2018 and emerged winner in the 2019 National Students Entrepreneurship Program (NSEP) that had the participation of 18 schools from over 10 states in the country. This feat qualified the school to represent Nigeria in the 2019 SAGE World Competition hosted in the United States of America.
At the world competition in Berkeley, California, Marist College Yangoji competed with technologically advanced countries like China, America, Japan, Israel, Vietnam and others emerging tops.
“We emerged a Gold Medal Winner for the Marist-AQM, which was the only project that ensures healthy lives and promotes well-being for all at all ages,” Aye, the school’s head of innovation told Africasti.
Following up to this in June 2020, the school team took first position out of 28 teams that participated at the maiden edition of the Afro SAGE national competition held at NAF conference centre, Abuja.
This time again, the school is presenting two teams at the SAGE World competition, having emerged from the National Competition held at the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential library, Abeokuta. One of the teams would be presenting the water quality monitoring device and the second, the air quality monitoring device..
Beyond the international recognition the school is getting because of the innovations by its students, the school’s principal is more pleased that the focus on hands-on innovation is helping to bridge the gap between the academically intelligent students and the not-so academically inclined others.
“When we started the ICT based innovation teaching, it was just a few students who showed interest. But after seeing the potential and the feats they achieved over a short period of time, we had no option to build it into the general curriculum of the school,” Ifeanyi Mbaegbu, the principal who is also a Catholic reverend father told Africasti.
“Focusing on ICT has helped so many students who were not known to be academically as brilliant as others to rise above the bar. By getting their hands on doing some innovations, they are able to meet up with the others,” the Principal said.
Beyond what may seem like children’s play, the principal is convinced that the school, which has also taken the positive influence to the host community is set to produce innovators of global repute.