IET On Campus: by students, for students
Kenya’s first IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) On Campus group launched in April 2022. Based at Strathmore University in Nairobi, the group has gone from strength to strength.
Maria Gitau, a Business and IT undergraduate student, was the driving force behind the creation of the Nairobi-based On Campus group.
“I found out about the IET from an Overhaul Manufacturing Engineer at Rolls Royce in the UK during an online forum where she talked about her STEM journey, the challenges she faced and how she overcame them. In a follow-up discussion, she talked to me about the IET and the potential to start an On Campus group, here in Kenya,” said Maria.
“I did further research on my own, including watching YouTube videos and reading about the On Campus initiative on the IET site. What I found most appealing about it was that it would create opportunities to bring together like-minded students and professionals with a desire to learn from each other through a range of activities and events.
“I also liked the idea of being part of a community that could have a positive impact on many students’ careers, even after we graduate.”
Creating a leadership team
A big fan of the ‘teamwork makes the dream work’ mantra, Maria wasted no time in presenting her idea to two fellow students, Nick Wariua and Kenneth Temba, who were all for it. That was in November 2021. The trio then talked to the IET staff team about their plan and asked many questions.
Having received the IET’s go-ahead to start up an On Campus group, they secured a patron – a university staff member. Delighted to take on this new responsibility, he gave them some great advice. “He told us how important it was to make sure we all had fun in the process,” said Maria. “He advised us to incorporate things that we enjoy, even when we’re organising educational and informative sessions.”
Next, the three friends set about creating a nine-strong leadership team. Maria said, “I knew from the start that having a talented team would enable us to draw upon each other’s strengths, for maximum impact. We sent out an initial call for students to apply for the six remaining positions available. We then drew from external sources to draft an internal constitution and assign the six roles.
“Our leadership team now has capabilities in graphics and design, report writing, event planning, team coordination and more. This broad range of skills enables us to share the workload and achieve high-quality results every time.”
Defining the values, mission and vision
Keen to ensure that the team remains aligned and focused on working towards shared goals, the leadership team adopted the IET Core Values of Integrity, Excellence and Teamwork and defined its mission and vision.
Maria said, “We aim to build a community that’s open to all technology and engineering enthusiasts, regardless of background. We want to be the leading tech community in Strathmore and to provide fun learning, nurturing and growth opportunities within the sphere of tech and engineering.
“We are a student-led initiative that works in service of students and our community. This is reflected in our slogan: by students, for students.”
The first three events
To promote the On Campus group, the leadership team designed simple posters and shared them on WhatsApp groups and social media platforms, as well as emailing students. According to Maria, “There was an overwhelming initial response from the students, which enabled us to kick things off with a bang.”
The group’s inaugural event was an IET Fun Day on 29 April 2022. All Strathmore University students were welcome to attend and the 112-strong turnout was impressive. The members of the leadership team introduced themselves, then Maria provided attendees with an extensive introduction to the IET and the benefits of being part of the IET On Campus community.
The Fun Day certainly lived up to its name. Attendees enjoyed playing the Kenya@50 ice-breaker as well as various board games. The event, which included a pizza party, provided a great opportunity for people to get to know each other and enjoy themselves.
In May, 2022, the group held a 75-minute Brainstorming Buzz session, which aimed to help students select titles for their research projects. More than 30 students attended. They soaked up the top tips provided by the two guest speakers, including how to narrow the focus from a broad research topic and how to prepare for the job market.
In June, the group hosted an hour-long Tech and Business webinar that attracted 35 students and featured one of Africa’s technology entrepreneurs. Following his presentation, the guest speaker was deluged with questions about entrepreneurship, ranging from the role of research to navigating the law and the sacrifices he has had to make along the way. After recommending some must-read books for budding entrepreneurs, his parting shot was: “Never give up.”
Maria said, “Receiving feedback from students about how much they enjoyed or learned from a session encourages us to keep striving to do better. We have many more events and activities planned for the 2022/23 academic year, including a drones’ information session, a hackathon for game developers, a freshers’ fair, and webinars on an array of topics.”
All members of the leadership team have learned many new skills as a direct result of their IET volunteering activities.
“The first of them is teamwork,” said Maria. “We had to work together from the outset, to achieve a shared vision. We had challenges along the way, of course. But we have come together and come out stronger.
“One of the things that has united us as a team is the agreement that it’s okay to make mistakes. As long as our heart is in the right place, it’s okay to test the boundaries and to try. If we fail, we just have to get back up and try again. The important thing is to learn from our mistakes.
“Volunteering is an enjoyable experience that provides a refreshing break outside of our classes. We enjoy making a difference and enabling our fellow students to benefit from a warm, inviting and fun community that helps them to enhance their knowledge and skills in the tech and engineering ecosystem.
“We make sure students know that we value and appreciate their opinions too. That’s why we conduct a survey after each event and critically analyse the feedback collected about what went well and how we can improve. By documenting all of this for the benefit of our On Campus successors, we know they won’t have to face the same challenges.”
This article was first published here.
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