Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Q&A: George Boateng ’16 Th’17


Photograph by Karen Endicott.

Besides being a research scientist in computer science who is exploring the intersection of healthcare and wearable tech, George Boateng is a social entrepreneur. His Thayer experience led him to cofound the Nsesa Foundation in 2014 to bring engineering classes to young people in his native Ghana. The foundation’s educational programming continues to expand, and Boateng, who recently received a 2018 Dartmouth Social Justice Award for Emerging Leadership, has big plans for its future growth, even as he heads off to Switzerland to begin a PhD at ETH Zurich.
 

What is the goal of your Nsesa Foundation?
We want to ignite an “Innovation Revolution” in Africa. The foundation’s Project iSWEST is an intensive three-week summer adaptation of Thayer’s ENGS 21 for students in Ghana. This summer will be the fifth year for the program, and it will be the first time we are operating it in two regions of Ghana simultaneously. Eventually, we hope to operate in all 10 regions, as well as in other parts of Africa.

Why did your foundation also launch SuaCode?
We want to teach millions of people how to code. SuaCode is an online course that teaches coding on a smartphone. We noticed that only 25 percent of people in Ghana have laptops, but 100 percent have smartphones. This year we are doing some pilot tests with groups of students to compare the learning experience on a laptop versus a smartphone. Our idea is that the basic course would be available for free online and that schools could access more advanced courses for a fee, like a subscription. Part of the pilot will be looking at the feasibility of that.

How else are you encouraging an innovation revolution?
In our first few years, we had very few female participants, and we wanted to address the gender gap in STEM. In 2015, we celebrated eight Ghanian women doing amazing things in STEM, hoping to inspire the younger generation. We were able to reach 30,0000 people on Facebook, which is where we’re sharing the stories. This year, from January to June, STEM WOW (Woman of the Week) will feature 24 women.

Has Project iSWEST inspired participants to continue in STEM?
Yes. It has turned out to be a pipeline for people who are interested in getting involved. The leader of STEM WOW, Princess Allotey, was one of two girls in Project iSWEST in 2014. She loves math and has founded Kids and Math, a project to spread the love of math to kids all over Ghana. Another participant developed a program called My Home Teacher to match students with tutors. That has taken off and won a lot of awards.

What drives you to keep your Ghana work going as you study abroad?
Part of the reason I left Ghana is that the research and the hands-on work that I want to pursue doesn’t exist there. I’m focused now on trying to create the ecosystem that I wish was there when I was growing up. I’ve been seeing progress, and I think there are people in business and other industries who are pushing boundaries, and that’s very encouraging.

Categories: The Great Hall, Q&A

Tags: alumni, curriculum, international, projects, STEM, students

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