Author: Dr. Yohana David Laiser, MD
Medical Doctor | Space Exploration Enthusiast | Aspiring Public Health Specialist
The government of Tanzania has set itself a goal to venture into space exploration by launching its first ever Communication Satellite, scheduled for the end of 2023 following similar endeavors by other countries in the region. This daring spirit shown by the government is also reflected by a rising number of space-related activities, establishment of privately owned companies venturing into space exploration, and a germinating stalk of space ecosystem in Tanzania, most notably in the country’s commercial city of Dar es Salaam.
One of record-breaking events to ever happen in Tanzania is the NASA International Space Apps Challenge, which is the largest global hackathon organised by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States of America and partner organisations from all over the world, such as ESA, CSA, JAXA, ISRO and many more.
The NASA Space Apps Challenge 2023 in Dar es Salaam was the first physical event of its kind to be held in Tanzania and had a promising debut of 20 active participants, whose stories symbolize the courageous and gifted nature of Tanzanian youth. Furthermore, the event was locally organised by a team of four young professionals in Dar es Salaam who had nothing more than a strong passion for Space Science and an unwavering commitment to ensuring that Tanzanian people get the right platform to showcase their talents and ultimately contribute to growth of the Space Industry in the country and globally.
The hackathon was carried out on the first weekend of October, from Saturday 7th (12:00am GMT+3) to Sunday 8th (11:59pm GMT+3), at a venue provided by our local collaborator, BUNI Hub who offered us the space, wireless internet and various tools to make the event a success. The hackathon embraced Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Accessibility where participants were recruited regardless of their gender, age, or economic and professional backgrounds. Participants included college and high school students, and young professionals, including a botanist and an entrepreneur, with more women featuring in all aspects of the hackathon compared to the previous online event.
What made this event so unique and interesting is the team that consisted of the youngest participants. Ammar, Hassan and Moses are all 17-year-old, high school students with a passion for STEM and Space Science. Despite this hackathon being a totally new concept in Tanzania, they applied to participate, appeared on the day of the event very well prepared, competed confidently and ultimately became the overall winners of this year’s local awards.
The ideas that came out of the hackathon in this limited period of time show how talented Tanzanian youth are and that they can do greater things when provided with such opportunities. However, the funding of such events and activities is still a big challenge because space exploration is not a common terminology in Tanzania. This led to the local organising team using money from their own pockets, coupled with immense creativity and hard work to make their dream a reality, as they strongly believe that space-related activities should be accessible to everyone. Funding remains the most prominent challenge for Africans to participate in most space-related conferences, hackathons, expeditions and research, followed by a knowledge gap characterised by a lack of space-related courses in most countries.
Consequently, the team is devoted to looking for collaborations with interested parties in order to scale up the provision of space education, from elementary school to college level and within the general population, as well as organising and carrying out events aimed at igniting a spirit of curiosity and innovation in the community.
Meet the Organising Team - NASA Space Apps Challenge – Dar es Salaam, 2023
Dr. Yohana Laiser - a medical doctor with a passion for Space Medicine and Extreme Physiology, and Local Lead for the NASA Space Apps Challenge – Dar es Salaam.
Dr. Elizabeth George - a medical doctor passionate about event planning and Founder of Elsa Planners, one of the hackathon local collaborators.
Mr. Deogratius Mushi - a computer scientist with a passion for technological innovation and its application.
Ms. Neema Kariuki - an aeronautics engineer passionate about aircraft propulsion and innovation in aviation.
TO UNITE, TO DARE, TO EXPLORE !
Tanzania is go for launch !
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