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Science Education Workshop 2018 – a focus on digital!

Between June 25-29, 2018, SRA undertook a series of workshops at the University of Sierra Leone.

The workshop was conducted over a period of 5 days and the participants were introduced to new teaching materials in bioinformatics and machine learning. Workshop attendees included members from the University of Sierra Leone (USL), the Eastern Polytechnic in Kenema, and Njala University in Bo. The USL Deputy Vice Chancellor, campus librarian and registrar observed the various sessions, which were attended by senior faculty members, university students and college teachers.

To ensure effective participation, we divided the participants into 3 groups: faculty members and SRA Project facilitators, Biology/Medical students, and Physics/IT/Engineering students. We also allowed some flexibility for some workshop sessions, such as the introduction to cloud computing, Unix, and Python for biocomputing to be attended by all the participants.

The Cloud computing course was introduced by the University of Cambridge’s Dr Sudhakaran Prabakharan, and participants explored online bioinformatics software packages in comparison to applications on local storage devices. SRA Founder, Dr Bridget Bannerman, introduced the Raspberry Pi (a small computer designed in the UK to promote computer literacy in developing countries) as an effective tool for cloud computing. This was particularly welcomed by the Computing Services Department of the University of Sierra Leone

The workshop participants also received manuals from which they were able to practise basic commands in Unix and Python with the Raspberry Pi computers.

Students setting up and using the Raspberry Pis

The ‘Train the Trainers’ workshop was led by Dr Bannerman and organised mainly for the Faculty members of USL and the SRA project facilitators. They were given special training on how to set up the Raspberry Pi computers, simulate science experiments and troubleshooting strategies. They were also equipped with Raspberry Pi computers to support the SRA clubs during school visits.

We’re proud to have built on the success of previous workshops. Please let us know in the comments what you’d like to see at the next workshop!

We gratefully acknowledge several generous organisations for their support. These include Cambridge-Africa, which supports research efforts between the University of Cambridge and several African research institutes. We would also like to thank the Institute of Physics and Mott MacDonald for supporting us via their Community Awards scheme. This funding helped purchase accessories for the Raspberry Pi computers, enabling students to undertake more complex coding activities and science experiments. More information about Mott MacDonald can be found here:

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