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Meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel

Paving the way for invention

Meeting a world leader is always exciting. Especially so for a 9th grade student from a rural school in Ghana. Princess, a member of The Exploratory, had that chance last week. Princess is holding a light box, an invention she improved upon, which she uses with her neighbors, in her unfinished house, as you can see in the background image.

The Chancellor’s visit to Ghana as part of her west African tour in August 2018. At ImpactHub Accra, Merkel met entrepreneurs and innovators across Ghana, including our own inventor Princess, as well as our partner, Charles Ofori Antipem from Dext Technology.

Don’t you love the satisfaction and confidence exuding from this young girl, as the world’s most prominent world leader? Since Chancellor Merkel is a PhD scientist, her genuine interest in the lightbox that Princess and her team created last year during The Exploratory’s #SolveforGhana design challenge is extra special.

How the light box came about

Princess’ house is not serviced by electrical lines. So she used to have to go to her friends’ house to do homework as night falls. However, power outages, or dumsor (off-on in Twi), are relatively common in Ghana.

The design challenge asked students to solve a problem relevant to them – how to continue studying during dumsor. Princess, using the principles she learned and the components in Dext Technology’s Science Set as part of the prototype, designed a lightbox that is battery-powered, that has dual LED lights, one on each side, so two students can study together.

But it turns out Princess has many friends. So she reconfigured and rebuilt the circuit, adding brighter lights, so now, as you see in the photo, four people can study together.

Princess, left, and her three friends can study when the power goes out, using the light box she and her team of Exploratory members designed

Charles Ofori Antipem (middle of the photo at the top) is explaining to Chancellor Merkel Princess’ process, design and how she and her friends use it. He is the brilliant inventor of the Science Set, Charles and his co-founder Michael Afrifa created the startup Dext Tech several years ago because they believe that science, and education is #ForEveryChild – not only in Ghana, not only in Africa, but throughout the world. We are so grateful for their brilliance and dedication. (Addendum: BBC and CNN have since published stories about Charles – and included Princess and her fellow Explorers in their videos. Read more here).

Charles also saw the possibility of igniting the fire of invention in the younger generation, by inviting them to see themselves as problem solvers – in and for their own environment, through the design challenge, which we were happy to co-produce. The students, of course, live up to the task.

Wouldn’t you like to see more inventors like Princess, who has the confidence and tools to create something she imagined and made? And perhaps then can meet a leader of the free world?

I certainly would.

Nina Dudnik of SeedingLabs said it best: “Talent is everywhere. Resources are not”.

Note: A version of this was first published on LinkedIn.