The A. Richard Newton Educational Innovation ABIE Award recognizes educators who develop innovative teaching practices and approaches that attract girls and women to computing, engineering, and math. This year’s winner, Bih Janet Shufor Fofang, is from Cameroon, and has been teaching electrical engineering for 15 years at the College D’enseignement Technique Industriel et Commercial.
In 2009, she founded the private K-12 Tassah Academy in Cameroon, with 600 students enrolled. Throughout her career, Bih Janet has demonstrated her dedication to youth education and is a strong supporter of girls. In fact, 60 percent of the students enrolled in her school are female. She is extremely passionate about the outcome of her students and envisions developing schools that are affordable for all. Bih Janet encourages girls at an early age to learn and be excited about the opportunities and applications of technology, and the special spice and expression that females provide in this field. She builds and teaches solar photovoltaics so children can learn about the benefits of clean energy to the environment. She goes about this using solar pedagogic kits found in her own “STEM Boxes.”
Bih Janet's idea is to increase the numbers of women in technology in Cameroon, and to give them more decision-making power in STEM. After her visit to Silicon Valley in 2013 with the U.S. State Department's TechWomen program, Bih Janet brought home new and exciting technology and ideas for her students. She started the STEM box and STEM Your School program. To her, this was a way to involve the school community, making them take ownership of the program.
Thanks to the generous support of WeTech (Women Enhancing Technology – a consortium led by the Institute of International Education), the “STEM Your School” project started in 2014, encouraging schools to create clubs to inspire girls to get interested in STEM. What started with a pilot project of 10 schools expanded to 20 teachers reaching 120 girls across the country. Girls meet with their female STEM-trained teacher to learn more about science outside of traditional class settings using a hands-on approach and critical thinking skills to appreciate STEM in new exciting ways. The program is designed around multiple interactive science kits for students that can be used on the go. The kits range from electronic circuits with components, to solar panels, to Arduino microcontrollers and Raspberry Pi units. The portable kits come with usage instructions allowing any young scientist to create her own experiments without a large expensive lab or equipment. The STEM boxes made national news, reaching 900 girls from 20 high schools in Cameroon's West Region. The project ran a challenge on national TV that will be aired for four months on a program called “Brainbox.”
Meet Bih Janet at the Speakers Corner at the AnitaB.org Booth (Booth #1420, GRBCC Hall B-D) on Wednesday from 4 – 4:45 p.m.