EBTIKAR Tech Challenge - Jordan
The Ebtikar Tech Challenge! was a four-month-long innovation challenge that was conducted at the InZone learning hub in the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. The challenge inaugurated the soon-to-be-established FabLab and was a follow-up to the Uvumbuzi Tech Challenge, which was implemented in the Kakuma refugee camp in 2021. ‘Uvumbuzi’ means ‘innovation’ in Kiswahili, ‘Ebtikar’ means ‘innovation’ in Arabic; innovation was the driving force behind the two challenges.
The Ebtikar Tech Challenge is the second of three phases of a three-year pilot project initiated by InZone to pave the way for the upcoming Certificate of Open Study in Digital Fabrication, which will deliver highly contextualized and needs-based courses. The challenge was directly aimed at the development of tech-based solutions to a selection of refugee-identified problems in their living environment, helping to open new doors to the students in Azraq by exposing them to design-thinking methodology and digital fabrication technology.
Participants from Azraq joined forces with students from Luminus Technical University College in Amman and Irbid in Jordan and the IOM Resilience Innovation Facility at Gaziantep University in Turkey to work together, exchange knowledge, and develop practical solutions to refugee-identified issues in order to create a prototype the InZone FabLab in Azraq. Participants benefited immensely from the interdisciplinary, multicultural, and international nature of the teams, and were also guided by a range of technical and thematic experts to help them learn the necessary technical and thematic skills to realize the creation of the prototypes.
The project was structured around design-thinking methodology and consisted of two phases:
- Phase I was conducted in June and July and consisted of five interactive online training sessions, each one aimed at a different phase of the design cycle. This enabled them to identify problems and potential solutions for Phase II, for which they produced a short video detailing the challenges they face.
Phase II built upon Phase I, where 5 teams of students from each of the partner institutions––each focused on a different thematic area identified during Phase I: water management, shelter safety issues, transportation, education, and electricity––attended weekly webinars on design-thinking methodology, 3D design, 3D printing, microelectronics, and app development, in order to bring their prototypes to life. To support the development of their solutions, the teams received valuable feedback from weekly conversations with experts from a variety of institutions and organizations including the Swiss Embassy in Jordan, SUPSI, Antenna Foundation, Kindling Safety, BeyondBorders, NeuroTech Jordan, EPFL, University of Toronto, and Practical Action.
During the first three weeks of the challenge, participants attended sessions on design thinking and learned about various topics, including empathy interviews, problem definition, ideation, brainstorming, personas, scenarios, benchmarking, and research methods. The aim during this time was to transform the problems identified during Phase I into a narrowly defined problem statement and to propose solutions to the problem identified. During the latter half of the challenge––the design and prototyping phases––participants learned about the fundamentals of Fusion360, Tinkercad, and Arduino, benefiting from both in-person and online sessions, in order to produce their prototype.
Pictured below is one of the training sessions at the InZone learning hub in Azraq, where participants from Azraq, using Fusion360, designed their prototypes in 3D and printed them using a 3D printer. As well, an in-person session was conducted at Luminus Technical University College in Amman and Irbid, where LTUC students were able to learn about the fundamentals of 3D printing. Through the hybrid sessions, participants developed their skills to collaboratively produce their prototypes.
On October 5th, the teams presented their final prototypes to a jury and over 20 experts from a variety of technical and thematic areas. Listed below are the innovative projects that were developed during the challenge.
Water Team (1st prize)
- A water tank equipped with a filter to ensure water quality and a sensor to control the amount of water flowing from the tank and minimize water waste
Safety Team (2nd prize)
- A hybrid smoke and heat detector and sensor equipped with GPS technology to report the precise location of fires in the camp to the fire authorities to enhance a quicker response
Electricity Team (3rd prize)
- A sensor that monitors and controls electricity usage in individual shelters to minimize the frequency of electricity blackouts in the camp.
- A mobile application to deliver online and offline courses, including VR and AR modules to enhance the quality of education in the camp.
- A vehicle with improved usability, design, and efficiency to help enhance mobility throughout the camp.
Having started the challenge with minimal knowledge of design-thinking or digital fabrication tools, and through participating in the sessions to gain an understanding of the fundamentals of design-thinking, 3D design, microelectronics, 3D printing, and digital fabrication, the foundation was built to enable the participants to turn their ideas into a reality. The experience reflects the power of collaborative learning and problem-solving, as well as the importance of human-centric design. However, the journey doesn't end here. Students at the InZone Azraq learning hub will be able to continue using the FabLab in order to continue learning, creating, and innovating solutions to the problems they face day-to-day. Finally, we would like to express our deepest appreciation and gratitude to all the participants for their hard work and determination and to our partners for providing the necessary resources to empower the students and make this challenge a success.