Sela kasepa: Powering Zambia’s First Robotics Team

Sela sent even more cold emails in search of sponsorship, which was in vain, but while having coffee with her professor, Evelyn Hu, she made mention of her struggle and was amazed when a few days later, Hu connected her to sponsors for three of the team members plus a mentor. After rallying with the local team in Zambia, Peter Lungu liaised with Ethiopian airlines for a sharply discounted airfare so all seven members of the Zambia Robotics team could be present for the competition.

Sela says shifting from mentee to mentor gave her a moment’s pause. “It was scary on my part. This is something new. I’m grateful to Mr. Lungu who helped me co-mentor the team.”

Unable to miss her classes, Sela watched the competition for her computer. She entrusted team captain Mwengwe Mpekansambo to take charge even after their machine broke down during trials. Working all night, the former head girl at Fatima Girls encouraged her six teammates to fix the problem. Makasa Mwamba, Mphande Phiri, Chewe Malupenga, Clivert Mande, Jireh Katebe, Ephraim Mulilo, Meek Simbule, Njavwa Kabandama, and Mary Ngoma all went from no knowledge of robotics to hands-on leading Zambia on her maiden competition to attain 32nd position out of 163, applying their various capacities from the makeshift robotics shop at ZISD center.

Robotics is not just about building a robot; it is realizing we can do something with our hands Click To Tweet

The world of robotics opened Sela’s mind to possibilities. The global robotics competition in Mexico 2018 is in view for her, and she wants to take the reins of the upcoming Zambian robotics team. Her goal for the team is to instill in them a sense of ownership and responsibility and for their endeavors to move beyond seeking sponsorship for competitions to being a self-sustainable team propelling innovation in the Southern African country. Her hopes are for mini-robotics competitions to spring around Zambia so that new talent can have a platform as well.

Sela Kasepa admits the journey has not been without its trials for her.  She has since been proactive in a competitive learning environment full of new challenges and rigorous study. Sela aspires to become an aerospace engineer, influenced by ZISD Founder Chiluwata Lungu, an aerospace engineer himself. When she worried about employment possibilities in Zambia if she chose to delve in the complex course, he opened her eyes to the multifaceted nature of engineering and the practicality of combustion and propulsion in different sectors of the STEM.

The path she’s worked so hard to attain comes with its sacrifices. Intensive study, time zone difference, and her extracurricular activity such as being part of the Harvard robotics club, have made it difficult for Sela to always stay in touch with friends and family. During the semester break, she only spent about six days at home in Kitwe and the rest of the four weeks working alongside her ZISD family in Lusaka to organize a robotics showcase for Zambian children.

Back at Harvard, the learning experience has exceeded her expectations and she admits she will need to attain work-life balance to maintain a social life.

“My classmates are now my friends. The courses can be tough and when we work together to solve complex problems, a bond of friendship is formed. The open door policy at Harvard is also amazing. I can walk into any professor’s office and ask about their course. The professors are very passionate here.”

“Do not let reality change your dreams, change your reality with your dreams.” Click To Tweet

 


Listen to the interview with team captain Mwengwe Mpekansambo here.

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