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Partnership to help launch careers in Africa’s satellite tech space

Intelsat has entered into a partnership with XinaBox, a provider of modular electronics for learners and professionals, to deliver space-focused STEM learning tools to teenagers across Africa.

Intelsat is sponsoring scholarships, each worth hundreds of dollars, for 20 students in Africa to access XinaBox’s dedicated space STEM kits and educational programs, which culminate in students designing, building and launching satellites into space.

The kits provide a rapid hardware development platform, specifically designed and manufactured for STEM applications in schools and universities.

According to XinaBox, using commercial standard electronics components, students are able to design and build circuits, code using multiple formats and conduct experiments, without specialist equipment or lab.

The company states: “Through building, experimenting, and creating working electronic devices, crafters, students and tinkerers learn critical STEM skills, including coding, electronics, data gathering and analysis, control, and all the principles of Internet of Things (IOT), while engaging with the sensory environment around them. This approach uniquely bridges the virtual worlds of software, the cloud, and big data, with students’ real-world surroundings.”

Melissa Longo, global media relations manager, Intelsat, says: “This is a pan-African initiative so we are hoping that students from all over the continent will apply. The kits are already used in some South African schools, as a growing number of teachers are using technology in the classroom. The feedback from teachers and students has been amazing: students are showing a different level of interest and are excited about the new – and fun - experience in programming and coding. We really believe in the initiative that will show a new side to technology, science and space – and hopefully spark interest. Imagine, last year, over 40 thinsat satellites, designed and coded by school children from the US and South Africa, launched into space on an Antares rocked that was on its way to the ISS – a unique experience for the children.

Longo says of the broad need for STEM skills in Africa that as governments, enterprise and consumers increasingly rely on connectivity to operate and communicate, satellite has proven essential to the continent’s development, and more particularly for certain rural and remote communities.

“This has had a direct impact on the industry that has grown over the year and, in 2019, about 8,500 people worked across the African space industry. We also share our knowledge through training programmes across the continent to help strengthen these much-needed STEM skills.”

Longo adds that from Intelsat’s three offices in Johannesburg, Nairobi and Dakar, a team of highly qualified sales and technical professionals work closely with regional customers and partners to respond to the continent’s connectivity demands.

“While this team of locally recruited experts work also with their counterparts in the US and Europe, they understand like on-one else the challenges of the region and the needs of their customers. The number of people working across the African space industry has increased over the years underpinned by a growing supply of qualified graduates as a number of African universities offer relevant degrees and we know that we can count on these to help us bring new solutions to the continent.”

Judi Sandrock, one of the co-founders of XinaBox, says: “When the Intelsat team suggested supporting African students on our flagship program, we were excited and inspired. Our primary goal is to give access to space for all. Intelsat’s values and ours are totally aligned, with the students and their futures at the core. Intelsat’s support will allow the XinaBox Space STEM program to accelerate as we move into 2021.”

Intelsat sponsorship criteria

Intelsat is sponsoring 20 XinaBox Space STEM program scholarships, with successful candidates meeting the following criteria:

Between 15 and 18 years of age

Born and currently living on the African continent

Demonstrates a passion for, and knowledge of, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)

Has a clear interest in all things “space”

Access to the internet, and a smart device for virtual workshops, i.e. can run a browser-based collaboration tool (camera not essential)

Browser skills

Proficient in English (the first program will be delivered in English)

Students with an interest in the scholarship who meet these criteria are encouraged to apply before the deadline: November 30, 2020 at 5 p.m. SA. The application process requires completing an online form, a space quiz and submitting a short explanation building the case for why you should be selected for this unique program.

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