August 30, 2019
In 2014, a small group of Ashesi faculty put together the first Ashesi Innovation Experience (AIX), designing an intensive two-week enrichment program that welcomed high school students to Ashesi’s campus, to build knowledge and experience in design, leadership, robotics, and entrepreneurship.
Since then, the program has grown steadily, reaching over 500 participants as well as expanding its course offerings, adding on modules in engineering and the creative arts.
The 2019 program featured the most diverse class yet, welcoming 132 participants from 70 high schools and 11 countries, including Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Liberia, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, United States, United Kingdom, and Ethiopia.
Ashesi in two weeks
While the program has grown over the years, the idea originally spawned from a combination of week-long area-specific high school camps run at Ashesi from 2012-2013.
“Even though the young people who attended these camps got excited about their experiences, we realized that they were only exposed to only one-side of what Ashesi could offer them,” shared Dr. Esi Ansah, Faculty Lead for AIX Leadership Module. “So we combined the programs and expanded the experience into one where we could deliver a well-rounded leadership and design program, and also drill down into the specifics for robotics, engineering, creative arts or entrepreneurship.
Designed to give participants a snapshot of the Ashesi experience, the program is led by Ashesi faculty with support from Ashesi students and alumni. The first week of the program is centered on the leadership and design modules, while in the final week, participants narrow down into selected specialties in robotics, engineering, entrepreneurship, and the creative arts. Participants also deliver a final capstone project at the end of their experience.
“While AIX aims at expanding the horizons of the participants and exposing them to the respective modules, the key thing is, we believe that these young men and women are not future leaders, but they’re leaders now,” shared Dr. Ayorkor Korsah, AIX Faculty Lead and Head of Ashesi’s Computer Science department. “So our goal over the two weeks that they spend here is to equip them with some of the skills that leaders need to excel.”
“In addition to the skills and lessons I picked up in design and leadership, I gained a stronger appreciation for being creative and thinking outside the box,” shared Jessica Ugochinyere Ajonuma, a participant from Nigeria. “I also formed new friendships and built experiences that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Building a support community
Over the years, while AIX has provided an opportunity for high school students and their families to become part of the Ashesi community, the program has also received generous support from sponsors including the Mastercard Foundation, the Sahara Foundation, Woodin, the Harambee Entrepreneurship Alliance, and other generous groups and individuals.
“The Sahara Foundation is committed to supporting African youth with a primary objective of moving our continent from the position of constantly relying on grants and handouts, to a point of self-sufficiency,” shared Oluseyi Ojurongne, Manager at the Sahara Foundation. “It’s high time we fix our continent, and everyone has a role to play. We need to identify what our individual and collective roles are and ensure that African becomes self-sustaining. It’s a task for everyone, and for us at Sahara, we’ve started this journey with Ashesi and the AIX where we can support young and open-minded people to take up and engage challenges.”