My name is Claire Wambui Njuguna, a second-year student in Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Nyeri. I am currently pursuing Bachelor of Science in Mechatronic Engineering. My love for STEM started way back as a child though I was not so sure which field I would end up in. However, as I grew older, my passion became evident to the people around me such that my primary school class teacher, Mr. Harrison would call me “Engineer” a name which I decided to own. I’m currently working very hard so that I can own the name officially.
After K.C.P.E, I was admitted to Alliance Girls Highschool a school where I was exposed to a wide range of opportunities. In the second form, I joined the science congress club, where we would come up with projects, and then present them for competitions in the annual secondary school’s science congress. We also made simple robots and no matter how simple they were, I would feel that at the end of the day I had accomplished something. My love for STEM grew gradually in the day to day activities and everyday exposure. I was also exposed to mentors and role models who I would always look up to and wish that someday I would end up like them.
In 2015, the top ten students were awarded a trip to visit China. China is a very developed and highly mechanised country so I had a lot to see. From the huge robots, the escalators in every building, the CCTV surveillance cameras in the malls both big and small, the automatic flushing systems and many more. All this was STEM and I felt that if my country would have the same system, then it would be a better place to live in. Due to that, I wanted to learn so that I would impact in the development so that the next generation finds a better place.
Pursuing my current degree in Mechatronic Engineering was influenced by certain factors; Firstly, I wanted a career which many women before me had not ventured into so that I would become a mentor to the younger girls who probably due to lack of exposure have not heard about it. Secondly, robotics had gradually become my passion.
When I was in the third form,2016, after attending different science congress competitions, I felt that I was now ready to participate. With the help of the club patrons Mr. Thiong’o and Mrs. Gitahi, and the lab technician, I was able to come up with the project titled ‘Instantaneous car Headlights Dimmer’ whereby the car headlights would dim automatically when it met with an approaching vehicle at night so as to reduce road accidents at night. However, the project got defeated at the first level (zonal) which became very heart breaking for me though I swore that I would not give up. At least I now had ample time to better the project .
In 2017, when I was in the fourth form, I improved the project. This time round, I picked another partner, Deborah Achuei s. When we went for the competitions, I topped at the zonal level thus giving me a ticket to proceed to the next level. However, we got defeated in the second level which automatically became our last time to participate in science congress for secondary schools. In second term, FAWE was introduced to our school and another competition was organised but this time round it was for girls’ secondary schools only. I decided to participate and by God’s grace my project ranked second thus chosen to represent Kenya in the regional competition in Lusaka, Zambia. I was so happy and it is at this time that I realised that after the two failures God was actually preparing me for a greater thing. All this time my family especially, my father, Stephen Njuguna, was my greatest supporter and I believe that I would not have done it without them.
My experience in Zambia was wonderful. It was more of a learning experience than a competition. I got a chance to interact with people from all over Africa and the social lesson that I learnt is that wherever you go in Africa, always feel at home because we are all the same and the welcoming spirit is all over Africa. I also interacted with women in STEM who motivated me even more to pursue engineering.
My core reason for going to Zambia was to represent my country Kenya in the STEM competitions. The competition was very stiff but interestingly I emerged as the best in Africa. This was a dream come true. I was very excited and proud of my achievement because I did not let myself, family and country down. I was awarded a laptop which I still use today to do Various tasks in my academics.
In conclusion, STEM is fun, STEM is life, STEM will make you go places.