2020 PIO Winner
Congratulations to Sara Berkai, one of our 2020 Pass It On Award Winners. This award will be used to fund upcoming STEM workshops in East Africa for young girls as well as teachers, providing further access to technology.
Sara’s foray into STEM was born from an interest in internet connectivity.
The internet can be a great leveller in knowledge inequality and so I wanted to learn more about the digital divide and explored this in my undergrad thesis. I was also interested in investments in global connectivity (SpaceX/Google Loon) and what this looked like in action (i.e. Facebook’s Free Basics in India).
Her family fled a war zone and settled in London when she was a baby. So, Sara grew up with a deep realization that she has a certain level of access to knowledge and opportunities that her family back home did not.
Authoritative states are resistant to internet connectivity or result in censorship. I was getting impatient and kept asking myself how else does an unconnected child in a remote village access learning opportunities?
Sara studied a mix of Business and Computer Science at UCL. While pursuing her degree, she interned at tech companies, including Cisco (Silicon Valley) and spent a year at Amazon Kindle during her final year. She went into technology thinking about how she could be of value to younger relatives back home and others who did not have the same opportunities she grew up with.
Her biggest point of pride is her volunteer work supporting STEM students in East Africa.
In May last year, I sourced approximately $4k worth of edtech equipment and ran STEM workshops in East Africa. I trained 20 teachers and we taught 300 children. Most of the children had never used a computer before but were learning to code, build laptops and interact with AR/VR.
Sara was inspired by the wonder and curiosity she ignited. Her students would daydream about what they would build next and share that they wanted to become engineers themselves. After running STEM workshops back home, her focus on internet connectivity gradually moved to STEM learning opportunities and more specifically, hands-on experiences with physical computing. She is currently pursuing a masters degree in Child Development at Oxford, studying the influence of hands-on physical computing on a child’s development but more so, their self-efficacy.
Sara shares this advice to inspire others in her field.
Go for it. Follow your curiosity hard. Look at your life so far, what brings you joy or what you would do for free anyway? You can also combine this with technology, whether it’s architecture, sports, fashion, healthcare, finance and so on. It matters more if you like what you do – granted some days can be frustrating – but it can feel like play. You can do whatever you want. I try to focus on the big goal of what I’m trying to accomplish and that takes me out of my head. Everyone is figuring it out.
Congrats again to Sara and all our 2020 Pass-it-On Award winners!