Schoolgirls help build Africa’s first private satellite

Girls wearing safety goggles sitting at lab table (Courtesy of MEDO)
MEDO's STEM program is launching Africa's first private satellite. (Courtesy photo)

One hundred and fifty South African schoolgirls have started a project to design and build Africa’s first private satellite.

The satellite will be launched into space later this year as part of a program sponsored by the Meta Economic Development Organization (MEDO) to motivate more teenage girls in African countries to study and work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, or STEM.

The girls are designing the payload for the satellite, which the class intends to use to study agriculture and food security over Africa.

“MEDO has procured the first private satellite in Africa, and we have decided to effectively give this to young women to design it and put it together,” said Carla De Klerk, MEDO’s space program manager.

The project will also involve girls from Namibia, Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda and Ghana.

Research shows that the number of women working in STEM fields is low, more so in Africa where girls are more likely to be kept out of school than boys because of poverty and early marriage.

About 80 percent of jobs will need STEM skills by the year 2020, but less than 10 percent of girls are currently interested in or are pursuing university studies in STEM fields.

This story was originally published on the Voice of America website.