STEM program draws inspiration from ENGS 21
Founded in 2013 by George Boateng ’16 Th’17, Project iSWEST, which stands for Innovating Solutions with Engineering, Science and Technology, is a three-week summer program for high school students in Ghana based in part on the College’s curriculum for Engineering Sciences 21, “Introduction to Engineering.” The course serves as the flagship program of the Nsesa Foundation, a nonprofit founded and run by Boateng and six of his colleagues.
Nsesa, which means “change” in the Ghanaian language Twi, hopes to help young people use science, technology, engineering and math to benefit their communities, according to the foundation’s website.
Project iSWEST includes education on microcontrollers, computer programming, innovation and entrepreneurship, according to Boateng. The idea for the program and specific aspects of the innovation course are based on ENGS 21, which Boateng took as an undergraduate.
“Both the structure of the [iSWEST] program and the [innovation] course specifically were modeled after ENGS 21,” Boateng said, citing the course’s emphasis on problem-solving as a reason he chose to recreate the course in his home country.
This past summer, the program’s focus was on solving problems in Ghana’s agricultural sector. When taught at Dartmouth, ENGS 21 students participated in a group design project weaving together fields like mathematics, economics and communication, according to the Thayer School of Engineering website.
“We want to teach [participants] STEM skills and mentor them in developing solutions to problems in Ghana,” Boateng said.
Thayer professor Petra Bonfert-Taylor, who has served on the review board for ENGS 21 in the past, believes that the course’s creative nature lends itself particularly well to the type of innovation Boateng is trying to inspire.
“I think it’s the course that students get the most out of,” Bonfert-Taylor said. “Students get so far, and they start with almost nothing. It’s absolutely stunning what they produce at the end of the course.”
Bonfert-Taylor taught Boateng in ENGS 20 and has worked with him through the Dartmouth Emerging Engineers program, which offers academic support for students taking engineering prerequisite classes.
“He’s a true believer in the [Emerging Engineers] program and has helped many students here through his work,” Bonfert-Taylor said. “He’s a powerhouse.”
In spring 2017, Boateng was awarded the Thayer Dean’s Service Award for his work with the Emerging Engineers program and the Nsesa Foundation.
“[Boateng] is like a big brother to all the participants,” John Kotey, vice president of development for Nsesa, said. He added that Boateng is always willing to help participants with college applications and share his own experiences.
Victor Kumbol, Nsesa’s vice president of programs, added that Boateng has had a large impact on many of the participants.
“A lot of people are excited to pursue education outside of Ghana because of [Boateng’s]exposure and him coming back to give back,” Kumbol said.
Building on the success of Project iSWEST, the Nsesa Foundation is planning to launch three initiatives soon, Boateng said. N-Club, which will launch early this month, is a program designed to use the curriculum from Project iSWEST in high school and college clubs. SuaCode, set to launch in November, is a self-paced online program teaching participants how to code using smart phones. Finally, STEM Woman of the Week will honor a different woman in STEM each week on social media.
Additionally, Boateng would like to try to bring some Project iSWEST participants to Dartmouth at some point in the future.
“To bring talent here and give them more opportunities to bring it back to their home [would be] brilliant” Bonfert-Taylor said.
Correction Appended (Oct. 4, 2017): The previous version of this article originally stated that engineering professor Petra Bonfert-Taylor taught George Boateng in ENGS 21, when she in fact taught him in ENGS 20. The article has been updated to reflect this change.