Netia McCray is the Founder and Executive Director of Mbadika, a non-profit organization focused on increasing relations between international innovators and leaders in various fields in order to develop new ideas to tackle the enormous range of problems facing the world today. In her discussion with Venture Café Presents host Christine Dunn, Ms. McCray discussed Mbadika’s educational workshops and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kits to equip aspiring young innovators and entrepreneurs around the world.

As a child, Ms. McCray enjoyed being a tinkerer and engineer. She would take apart used electronics to see how they were made and put them back together, or build whatever she could come up with given some scrap wood and nails. She continued with that spirit of building and creativity as an undergrad at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology while at the same time being drawn to organizations that raise money to better the world. She decided that she wanted to provide kids with hands-on opportunities to explore their own engineering and techie side when they didn’t have those opportunities at home.

“People think innovation comes from a handful of people who are destined from birth to create the impact that is paradigm-shifting,” said Ms. McCray. “The talent and skills for innovation are universal, we just need to provide opportunities for kids to develop and explore those skills.”

Mbadika’s DIY start-up kits are manufactured in Cape Town, South Africa and are designed for kids with great ideas who don’t yet have the practical engineering knowledge and skills, such as how to work with electronic circuits. The kits provide not only opportunities to learn the practical skills, but also a practical end-product that can be used in the kids’ everyday lives. The first start-up kit, for example, gives kids the tools and parts to build their own solar USB charger for a mobile phone, learning about electronics and engineering design principles along the way.

“We were inspired by the idea that you could give someone a box of parts and they could learn basic tech skills and engineering principles while having fun,” said Ms. McCray, who embraces the idea that kids absorb more information when given a lab with physical materials for hands-on learning. “We tell these kids here are the materials, this is what we’re going to build. Now use your imagination to figure out how to get there.”

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Netia McCray, Founder and Executive Director of Mbadika on The Venture Café

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Netia McCray, Founder and Executive Director of Mbadika on The Venture Café

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