As opposed to a group of specialist engineers or inventors handling this project as expected, the creation of Africa’s first private satellite is being powered by a group of teenage South African girls.

The satellite, which will launch in the first quarter of 2016, is not only a celebration of African innovation, but a positive shift in participation of the African girl child who would have, in the past, let the “geeky boys” handle it.

Pupils from across Cape Town on Youth Day attended the launch of the ambitious project, run by the Meta Economic Development Organisation (Medo). A shortage of technical skills required for building businesses motivated the company to launch a science, technology, engineering and maths focused programme, explained Medo CEO Judi Sandrock.

“The intention of this programme is not to be a once-off. It is to be the start of at least a decade-long drive to inspire young people to enter the science and technical fields,” she said.

‘Technically passionate households’

The programme is crucial in reversing the legacy of apartheid which excluded maths and science from the curriculum of non-white children, the company said in a statement.

Today’s children are “not brought up in technically passionate households” and the number of technical degree applicants is decreasing year-on-year”.

The Medo programme has been designed to inspire young women to consider science, technology, engineering, and maths as a career.

‘I always thought it was for nerdy boys’

“It’s amazing to see how all these bits come together to create something so technical and amazing,” the Pelican Park High School pupil enthused.

“It has never been my favorite subject, but I am starting to love science. I always thought it was for nerdy boys. Now I am thinking of making this my career.”

Nina-Rose Clarke of Pinelands High School agreed.

“I never thought building things could be this interesting. I am loving this experience. It’s so exciting to be exposed to more than just drawing and studying ideas. Constructing stuff is so much better.”

With programmes like these, it is expected that more African women, like the three innovative South Africans, will be more willing to consider a career in male-dominated fields.