CodeBus Africa is led by Aalto Global Impact (AGI), which promotes and facilitates Aalto University’s research and educational programs for societal impact globally. AGI brings together various Aalto University programs, courses and research groups to advance global sustainability. In essence, working together are students from Aalto University schools of Business, Arts, Engineering, and Science, post-doctoral researchers, professors and various innovation stakeholders, like end-user communities, public sectors, companies, organizations and hubs. Cross-disciplinary teams of experts and extensive stakeholder networks play an important role, because convergent research and dynamic skills and viewpoints are vital in solving the complex challenges the world is facing.
AGI facilitates projects that take place in emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Aalto entities, together with local stakeholders, tackle societal challenges co-creatively and seek to provide long-term solutions to them. AGI is currently involved in projects in the fields of frugal and sustainable innovations, inclusive businesses, renewable energy, water and sanitation, ICT and digitalization as well as architecture and design.
AGI’s initiatives tackling global challenges also foster opportunities for in-depth learning in real-life environments. An example of a fresh education initiative is Strengthening Problem-Based Education in East African Universities (PBL East Africa), which pilots challenge-driven education in Eastern Africa and strives to solve real-world issues. It is a collaboration between four universities: Dar es Salaam University in Tanzania, Makerere University in Uganda, Nairobi University in Kenya and Aalto University in Finland. The partner universities identify local challenges and hold ownership of the project at the local level, while Aalto Global Impact is responsible for overall project management.
Aalto Global Impact is pleased to be the coordinator of CodeBus Africa for several reasons. Firstly, it has potential to deliver great societal impact. Technology is key in building the groundbreaking innovations a more sustainable future calls for. Further, in an increasingly technology-centered world, encouraging youth to discover and make use of technology in their own lives will not only benefit themselves by broadening their opportunities, but will also benefit their communities and the world. In addition, CodeBus builds partnerships with hubs, entrepreneurs and universities in countries that AGI has worked in. AGI has had activities in all the countries part of CodeBus Africa’s tour, aside from Ghana and Nigeria. Long-standing global partnership networks allow for new project opportunities, peer-learning and sharing best practices, which in turn make room for improvement and progress. Close cooperation with local actors also supports AGI’s key objective of supporting global entrepreneurship and responsible leadership.
Read about Aalto Global Impact’s latest happenings here!
Mehackit is a social enterprise founded in 2014. The organization’s mission is to offer equal chances for youth to get ahold of technology, so that they can learn the kind of skills required in today’s world. “Many people graduate from secondary and high schools without having any sort of programming experience. Mehackit counters this by offering creative technology courses to the schools so that youth can have an inspirational first touch to technology at a critical age”, explains Tommi Toivonen, course designer for Mehackit.
Blended and phenomenon-based learning form the foundation of Mehackit’s pedagogical approach. The education initiative primarily offers two high school level courses, an Arduino robotics course and a Processing visual programming courses, but also caters to secondary schools, where they teach basics of programming. Mehackit has developed CodeBus Africa’s original workshop curriculum and trained our Aalto University team of instructors.
Toivonen describes the CodeBus Africa workshop as fun, exciting and playful. In it, a special coding environment called Sonic Pi is used to live code music. Each line of code produces audible sounds, and with just a few lines of simple code kids can already create real music. “In each workshop, there’s a creative end goal the kids are working toward. It’s not just coding for coding’s sake, but a project with a result that they can look back at and be proud of”, he says. The musical aspect brings in an enthusiastic energy into learning that is often missing in traditional teaching. At the same time, children learn technological thinking and become familiar with key concepts of programming.
A musical approach to teaching coding works particularly well, because music is a universal language. “We all listen to and live our lives through music in one way or another”, Toivonen says. By forming a clear link between code and our physical world, Sonic Pi makes programming more accessible. Sonic Pi also enables quick progress, vital for an intensive 1-day workshop. “In just one hour, children can already create the sounds they want and have an ’aha’ moment, where they realize that ‘Hey, this computer is made to follow my commands’”, Toivonen describes.
CodeBus Africa fuses Finnish and African know-how to impact people’s lives positively by providing especially girls and marginalized youth with the kind of tools they can use to advance in life. Moreover, the Sonic Pi curriculum is adapted in a co-creative manner in each target country to serve varying needs and ensure local ownership for future. Toivonen believes that the CodeBus initiative will have a great impact. “Mehackit is working together with CodeBus, because we feel that the mission of bringing equality into programming teaching is a global thing”, he says. “Now that we have the spark, it is interesting to see what kind of teaching ecosystems and workshops will follow in the 10 countries part of the project.”
Want to give coding your own song a try? Find Mehackit’s Sonic Pi workshop materials here!
Click here to read about the Sonic Pi boot camp Mehackit held for our Aalto University coding instructors.
CodeBus Africa is a joint initiative genuinely relying on the support and contribution of its partners, both in Finland and in Africa. One of our key partners is Nokia, the CodeBus project’s biggest benefactor. This year, Nokia sponsors programs that aim to encourage girls into careers based in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In addition to supporting CodeBus financially, Nokia’s staff from the company’s African offices have actively been involved in the hustle and bustle of the workshops.
Nokia is an established Finnish company with roots dating as far back as 1865. The company’s history of over one and a half century is one of change and reinvention: Nokia has worked in various sectors, including paper products, rubber boots and tires, mobile devices, and telecommunications infrastructure equipment. Now a multinational communications and information technology company, Nokia focuses on large-scale telecom infrastructures, and technology development and licensing.
A part of Nokia’s approach to corporate community investment is putting technology to good use for communities around the world. Earlier this year, President and CEO of Nokia, Rajeev Suri, summarized Nokia’s corporate social responsibility as follows: “If we create the technology that delivers better lives, more efficient industries, a more sustainable planet, then we can both do good business and do good. That is the promise. That is the possibility. That is what we can do together.”
The theme together repeats all around and within the CodeBus Africa project: in Nokia’s social investment principles, as the core theme of Finland’s centenary celebration, and in the co-operative approach of the CodeBus initiative itself. Together with CodeBus Africa and other programs, Nokia seeks to increase diversity and bridge the gender gap in STEM disciplines, as well as to empower youth through facilitating personal development. By offering accessible technological education, advocating for gender equality and striving to reduce inequality, Nokia and CodeBus are also contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals set in 2015.
Finland became an independent state on 6 December 1917. The year 2017 marks a century of independence for the land of a thousand lakes and home of Santa Claus. In addition to being a chance to look back at the nation’s history, the centenary year is also a time to contemplate the future and what Finland can still become.
But what would a jubilee such as this be without a party or a few? Nothing, which is why various forms of celebration are taking place – in fact, over 2,000 events and projects are organized to commemorate the year. From a huge New Years’ event featuring crazy cool special effects and top artists that shut down the main street of Helsinki to more prolonged projects both within and without the physical borders of Finland, all festivities aim to realize the Finnish values of equality and democracy. The official Finland 100 programme covers a wide array of themes, including arts and culture, children and youth, corporate cooperation, sports and exercise, and science, research and education. Fusing education, programming, youth empowerment, creativity, and international community cooperation, CodeBus Africa fits into several of these.
CodeBus is led by Aalto University and organized in cooperation with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Nokia, Mehackit and over 15 local African innovators. By bringing together African and Finnish knowledge and innovation, the project respects the centenary values and concretely realizes the core theme of a 100-year-old Finland: “together”. Furthermore, the 100-day mission advocates equal opportunities in technology by targeting especially girls and marginalized youth. CodeBus is not only fun and funky, but an initiative that aims to benefit our societies as a whole.
Don’t forget to follow the journey on Facebook, or Twitter/Instagram @codebus_africa!