“I didn’t want to just fundraise. I wanted to actually do something.”
Name: Kenneth Wah
Hometown: Diamond Bar, CA
Education: Diamond Bar High School
Passions and Interests: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and building robots!
Transformational Experience: Ghana: Children of Africa™
Making an Impact: Starting a robotics education program – Robo Ghana – in Ghana through his organization, Walnut Valley Robotics
Engineers and scientists often find themselves needing to do something. Anything, really. Idle hands aren’t something they’re known for, even at a young age. So it’s no surprise that earlier in high school, Kenneth Wah was worried that his summer “was going to be very boring.”
Without telling his parents, he filled out the application for Global Leadership Adventures’ Ghana: Children of Africa™ program. He even paid for the application on a whim, without them knowing.
He credits his GLA staff with being so engaged and motivating that he had the “maximum GLA experience throughout the entire trip.” Volunteering with Ghanaian children and communities in need, particularly at a school setting, moved him.
This goes along with how Kenneth lives his life, according to a motto of his:
I don’t want to be a boring, normal person who sits around wasting their time. I want to make a difference in everyone’s life.”
Kenneth’s summer would certainly not turn out boring. As he likes to tell it, “even though I’ve been to many other countries as well, in 2014 I fell in love with Ghana.”
Back at school, after his summer abroad in Ghana, Kenneth is part of a robotics team competition that keeps him busy.
Then, something BIG happened. Kenneth had a thought he hadn’t been expecting:
What if I combined the two things I love – robotics and Ghana?”
And that made all the difference.
Kenneth returned to Ghana with GLA for another summer in 2015 to test out his idea, and then came back independently in 2016 to dedicate his time to the development of a robotics education program in a local Ghanaian school.
The plan is simple, but ambitious. The idea is for each class, beginning after the fourth grade, to take the robotics course at the school. They will utilize reusable LEGO parts to design and construct the robots, and the idea is not just to learn how to build them, but to think in creative and complex ways about solving problems.
While starting in only one school, Kenneth’s goal is to expand, so that “more students in Ghana will be able to get the experience with robotics and turn it into careers.”
I want to be part of the change that introduces a new system in Ghana. A system that involves hands-on learning. My next goal would be to expand the program to other locations in Ghana and hopefully around Africa. But, my real impact is to actually change lives, so generations after me can create.”
One of the issues Kenneth wants to address with his program is rote learning. He believes that to really inspire students to do more than remembers names and dates, they need to focus on education beyond the textbook.
In Ghana, their learning is centered around the textbook, and they’re really lacking the hands-on.”
Kenneth started learning about the textbook-centered education style during one of his in-country visits. After he’d introduced students to the robotics program, he found it a struggle for many of the children to use their creative and critical thinking skills in order to comprehend the lesson plan.
Then, during one particularly enlightening moment, while Kenneth was teaching the kids about how light bulbs and electronic circuitry work, he noticed that the kids had no clue what he was talking about. So he brought in some experiments to show them the science in action. He knew instantly that they were really learning once he brought in the real-life LEDs and AA batteries to show the students how it worked, instead of just explaining how.
So when it came to the robotics program, he knew the lessons would have to be hands-on. He raised money to produce the kits needed to make the hands-on curriculum doable.
Then he had to wait and see if it worked. It did.
The aha moment was when the students built [the robot] themselves, and programmed it on their own… My aha moment was when they got it, too.”
Kenneth likes to remind the children that “this is one of their opportunities as students,” and to make sure not to waste it.
Thanks to his program in Ghana, Kenneth’s robotics team has received recognition and awards, including the Inspirational Award from FIRST Robotics, and sponsorships from the likes of NASA and Penske Mercedes Benz.
While the recognition is nice, it isn’t why Kenneth does what he does. He does it because it makes a difference.
I would say traveling has totally altered my educational experience, as I had the ability to compare myself to those in Ghana, and think about what I could do to make a difference… The kids in the community changed my life, and this has led me to make a difference and return back to Ghana every year.”
Program Kenneth attended:
GLA Ghana: Children of Africa™
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