Texas Tech University

Teaching STEM in Southern Africa

Amanda Bowman

June 8, 2021

Tanja Karp will head to Namibia this fall thanks to her second Fulbright U.S. Scholar award.

Teaching young minds the basics of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has been a passion for Tanja Karp for quite some time. Karp, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering in Texas Tech University's Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, traveled to southern Africa in 2016/17 to help develop a LEGO robotics program through a Fulbright U.S. Scholar award.

In 2022, she's going to do it again after earning her second Fulbright award.

“I'm going to the Namibia University of Science and Technology in Southern Africa,” Karp said. “I engage a lot in STEM education. My goal is to get students in primary and secondary school excited about the field of engineering. In 2017, we implemented accessible LEGO robotics programs. The idea now is to expand STEM education beyond robotics.”

Tanja Karp
Tanja Karp

An issue that became apparent after Karp's 2017 visit was the cost of the LEGO robotics kits the students used. For her 2022 trip, Karp is going to innovate the process.

“We're going to look into programs that are more cell phone- and tablet-oriented because people have access to smartphones and Wi-Fi,” she said.

Receiving a Fulbright involves research, community engagement, and teaching. For Karp's community engagement aspect, she will work with the Namibian nonprofit MindsInAction.

“MindsInAction is connected with the Namibian Ministry of Education, and they're running STEM programs in the country,” she said. “I will bring data science and Python programming into their programs that currently mainly focus on robotics. I'll also provide computational thinking activities to the younger students.”

“At the university, I'm going to teach a data science class and a digital communication systems class about wireless networks, all the protocols and how it works. The idea is to connect the university students with the K-12 programs, so the older students serve as mentors. They're closer in age, and they come from a similar culture. Those connections give the programs an authenticity. It's something that people locally are excited and interested in.”

Karp also hopes to virtually connect Namibian university students to their peers at Texas Tech.

“Even if it's just a couple of meetings – because it's hard to get curriculum aligned – I want to broaden their mindsets,” she said. “The engineering field – myself included – requires global understanding and exchange between people. I think it would be a great experience for the Texas Tech and the Namibian students to see the other end of the world.”

About the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program

The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program offers diverse opportunities for U.S. academics, administrators and professionals to teach, research, conduct professional projects and attend seminars abroad. Recipients may apply for a second Fulbright Scholar award two years after the completion of the previous award.

Click here to learn more about Texas Tech's Fulbright resources.