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NASA Around the World: Interns Teach Virtual Lessons in Kenya

Video Credit: NASA/Dennis Brown, TechLit Africa

When it comes to inspiring the next generation, NASA interns know no bounds. Interns at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland taught students 7,600 miles away in Mogotio, Kenya, but thanks to technology, they didn’t travel a single mile.

Collaborating with TechLit Africa — a non-profit organization that teaches digital skills in Kenyan rural primary schools — interns shared virtual lessons on robot simulation, artificial intelligence, and drawing and modeling applications.

Nelly Cheboi concentrates while testing a virtual reality demonstration. She wears a virtual reality headset and a red and white dress. Her hands appear as if she is pressing buttons on an invisible tablet.
Nelly Cheboi, TechLit Africa CEO and founder, enjoys a virtual reality demonstration in NASA Glenn’s GVIS Laboratory.
Credit: NASA/Jef Janis

“It was an absolute privilege to help these kids and being a part of it,” said Marc Frances, extended reality developer and former NASA Glenn intern. “We do a lot of outreach events and try to influence kids from every part of life to become an engineer and be part of something that’s bigger than themselves.”

Kenyan students surround a computer laptop. They are smiling and laughing at the screen.
Students learn digital skills in rural primary schools in Mogotio, Kenya.
Credit: TechLit Africa

The opportunity arose after Herb Schilling, a Glenn computer scientist, met Nelly Cheboi, TechLit Africa CEO and founder, through a virtual event in 2020. The two began talking about Cheboi’s work with Kenyan students, and Schilling felt inspired to get involved.

“I haven’t done a lot of the teaching,” Schilling said. “I let the interns do it, because I want to give them the experience and encourage them to do these kinds of things too.”

Nelly Cheboi enjoys a virtual reality demonstration. She smiles as she wears a VR headset and holds a remote controller. She is wearing a red and white dress. Herb Schilling, computer scientist, smiles as he watches her.
Nelly Cheboi tests a virtual reality demonstration in NASA Glenn’s GVIS Laboratory.
Credit: NASA/Jef Janis

Using a beginner-level coding application, the interns showed Cheboi’s students how to design and animate a rocket that would launch into space. After several virtual lessons, Cheboi, CNN’s 2022 Hero of the Year, and her partner, Tyler Cinnamon, visited Glenn to learn more about NASA and meet Schilling in person.

“I think it has really helped shape our curriculum, Cheboi said. “For these kids to look at this experience as something normal to them really speaks volumes of the impact. It matters what environment you grow up into, and you really can only be it if you see it.”  

Learn more about how to engage with NASA on the NASA Engages web page.