Brilliant Gambian Robotics Team Gets To Shine After US Lifts Visa Restrictions

On Monday, July 3, a team of Gambian students was denied entry into the United States due to visa restrictions.

Now, the restrictions have been lifted, and the students will now be allowed to participate in the First Global competition in Washington D.C.

The students were denied twice even though Gambia, a Muslim-majority nation, is not listed in the U.S. travel ban.

Team member Fatoumata Ceesay, 17, told the BBC that the team is “excited and happy, but also disheartened, because we are not going with our mentor because he is a government official.”  Mucktarr Darboe, director at the ministry of higher education, was not granted access because the U.S. has banned granting visas to Gambian governmental officials since last year, according to the BBC.

Moctar Darboe/Al Jazeera

The team is one of 164 others competing and showing off their robots. Gambia hopes to win big with their robot designed to clean contaminated rivers when the competition starts July 16-18.

“I hope to come back with knowledge and inspiration to give young Gambians, especially the girls,” said Fatoumata.


When It Comes To Black Boys In Tech, Verizon Says #WeNeedMore

Everyone talks about the lack of diversity in tech but when it comes to taking actionable steps to nurture a more inclusive landscape, Verizon is putting their money where their mouth is. In an ongoing effort to introduce more minority males into the Silicon Valley ecosystem, the telecom conglomerate is sending thousands of middle school age minority boys to college campuses this summer, for hands-on STEM workshops to take tech courses and learn tech fundamentals, adopt mentors, and gain valuable lessons in entrepreneurship.

Launched in 2015, The Verizon Innovative Learning program boasts partnerships with 16 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Hispanic Serving Institutions. On Monday Verizon announced that Tennessee State University, Florida International University, California State University, and Dillard University will be joining the program’s roster. This expansion is in lock step with the #weneedmore hashtag campaign outlined on the program’s website, “#weneedmorekids to see the world of possibilities waiting for them.”

With over 2,000 students participants to date, participants in the Verizon Innovative Learning program learn to develop mobile apps, create flying drones, 3D design, and develop virtual reality experiences. At the end of the program, the Verizon Foundation invites the top 100 performing students to San Francisco to participate in a conference where they are given the opportunity to network with industry professionals, hear from dynamic speakers, and participate in experiential activities at the Verizon Innovation Center, Lucasfilm, Levi’s Stadium and Auto Desk.

Six Baltimore Teens Build Text Alert System Addressing ‘Emergency’ Opioid Epidemic

Opioid addiction has reached epidemic levels. The Department of Health and Human Services reports drug overdoses as the leading cause of injury death in the United States. This year, in the city of Baltimore, Gov. Larry Hogan labeled the opioid epidemic an emergency.

With heroin at the helm of this crisis, six Baltimore teenagers are taking matters into their own hands in response to this serious call to action. The high school students have been spending their Saturday’s at the offices of Code in Schools, a computer science education nonprofit in North Baltimore, building a tool using mobile devices to address part of the city’s heroin crisis.

Bad Batch Alert is an anonymous free text messaging service aimed at helping those struggling with heroin addiction to stay alive in Baltimore City. Using data aggregated from the city’s Emergency Medical Services, the service sends a text alert to all registered users in that area whenever there is a spike in overdoses. Sharp increases in heroin overdoses is typically an indicator that a lethal batch of tainted heroin is circulating in the neighborhood. A second component of the service aims at providing support and recovery tools for addicts. Texting “Van” to the service will show users the location of the nearest needle exchange van, and another command provides access to a 24-hour crisis line.

Overdose spikes happen weekly. In an interview with Baltimore, Michael LeGrand co-founder of Code in the Schools said that these the spikes are “rare enough and specific enough to your neighborhood that this will have an effect and save lives.” In addition to building the service, the six students have also been hands-on, talking to people in the community and gaining a deeper understanding of the opioid epidemic.  “It was the first place I’ve been able to write code that actually did something, that went into a program,” said 16-year-old Gavin Gomel-Dunn.

Bad Batch Alert

Salute to these students for leveraging technology to resolve a real issue in their community. Click here to register for the Bad Batch Alert service.