IN THE NEWS
By Meghna Chakrabarti, Zeninjor Enwemeka, Lily Tyson [November 17, 2017]
Two reports released on Friday from the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, or MassTLC, illustrate the state of the tech industry in Massachusetts.
The reports detail the economic importance that the industry has in the state of Massachusetts — 1 in 14 Massachusetts jobs are in a tech occupation — while also highlighting the startling lack of diversity within the industry.
Zeninjor Enwemeka, WBUR BostonomiX Reporter. Zeninjor tweets @zeninjor.
WGBH Basic Black Host, Callie Crossley, sits down with women of color who are leaders in science, technology, engineering, and math including our Founder and Executive Director, Netia McCray, on how organizations like Mbadika are paving the way for getting more women in STEM.
“Andrew Lee ’15 is one of six CEC students who counseled Smarter in the City and its five inaugural start-ups in the fall. Lee’s client is Mbadika (pronounced buh-JEE-kah), the brainchild of Netia McCray, whom Lee describes as “formal in speech, casual in demeanor,” with a passionate enthusiasm for her business. McCray started Mbadika at MIT, her alma mater. There, it went through a number of competitions and has been reinvented as a social venture with a mission to engage young people in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America in becoming engineers, innovators, and entrepreneurs. It offers summer immersion programs for teenagers to learn the fundamentals of engineering, and is planning a series of do-it-yourself kits that will be sold by student representatives to youth in their respective countries. The kits encourage teens to experiment, redesign, and improve upon the devices they are building. Mbadika’s first kit is a solar USB charger; it converts solar power, through rechargeable batteries, into energy for computers and cell phones.
Mbadika’s international marketing plan raises additional legal challenges. To advise Mbadika on the import and export laws and regulations of various African countries, Lee consulted with Ilana Hurwitz, who is a visiting law professor from the University of Witwatersrand (South Africa). And to tackle Mbadika’s patent law issues, Lee worked with attorneys from some of Boston’s respected law firms, who are on call to offer pro bono assistance to the CEC.
Legal needs: Advice on organizational structure and various best-practice policies.Emailing from South Africa, where she was drumming up interest in the solar USB-charger kit, McCray reports that these legal services have been invaluable. “Addressing the legal issues of being an international social venture was slowly becoming a full-time job for my team and myself as we attempted to understand and follow legal frameworks. Considering we are a start-up with a social mission, if we spend time not focused on Mbadika, we are decreasing our social impact on aspiring young innovators and entrepreneurs around the world,” she writes. “Mr. Lee may not realize the scale of his assistance to Mbadika, but the simple fact that I no longer lie awake at night concerned that Mbadika could be dissolved because we didn’t cross a ‘t’ or dot a specific ‘i’ has allowed my team and me to do what we do best: foster the next generation of young innovators and entrepreneurs.”…”
BY JERI ZEDER |
PHOTOGRAPHS BY WEBB CHAPPELL
Netia McCray is the Founder and Executive Director of Mbadika, a non-profit organization focused on increasing relations between international innovators and leaders in various fields in order to develop new ideas to tackle the enormous range of problems facing the world today. In her discussion with Venture Café Presents host Christine Dunn, Ms. McCray discussed Mbadika’s educational workshops and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kits to equip aspiring young innovators and entrepreneurs around the world.
As a child, Ms. McCray enjoyed being a tinkerer and engineer. She would take apart used electronics to see how they were made and put them back together, or build whatever she could come up with given some scrap wood and nails. She continued with that spirit of building and creativity as an undergrad at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology while at the same time being drawn to organizations that raise money to better the world. She decided that she wanted to provide kids with hands-on opportunities to explore their own engineering and techie side when they didn’t have those opportunities at home.
“People think innovation comes from a handful of people who are destined from birth to create the impact that is paradigm-shifting,” said Ms. McCray. “The talent and skills for innovation are universal, we just need to provide opportunities for kids to develop and explore those skills.”
Mbadika’s DIY start-up kits are manufactured in Cape Town, South Africa and are designed for kids with great ideas who don’t yet have the practical engineering knowledge and skills, such as how to work with electronic circuits. The kits provide not only opportunities to learn the practical skills, but also a practical end-product that can be used in the kids’ everyday lives. The first start-up kit, for example, gives kids the tools and parts to build their own solar USB charger for a mobile phone, learning about electronics and engineering design principles along the way.
“We were inspired by the idea that you could give someone a box of parts and they could learn basic tech skills and engineering principles while having fun,” said Ms. McCray, who embraces the idea that kids absorb more information when given a lab with physical materials for hands-on learning. “We tell these kids here are the materials, this is what we’re going to build. Now use your imagination to figure out how to get there.”
Mbadika and EduGreen debut their collaboration space in Cape Town, South Africa, the Green Innovation Technology (G.I.T) Hub.
“I met Netia McCray at Maker Fair Africa yesterday. She’s an MIT grad who’s working on a project called Mbadika (it means “idea” in the North Angolan language of Kimbundu), which is about teaching kids the basics of electronic prototyping. She does this using some very inexpensive solar-charging kits, designed to be put together and understood in an educational workshop, or on their own.
Mbadika is a new program, so they’re just getting off the ground themselves, however they’ve already taught 250+ kids in 6 countries.”
[A spotlight piece by WCVB Cityline Innovators and Startups on October 6th, 2014.]