Davis Projects for Peace Fellow: Ayomikun Ayodeji in MIT News!
Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, Ayomikun Ayodeji enjoyed the noisy hustle and bustle of his neighborhood. The cacophony included everything from vendors hawking water sachets and mini sausages, to commuters shouting for the next bus.
Another common sound was the cry of “Up NEPA!” — an acronym for the Nigerian Electrical Power Authority — which Ayodeji would chant in unison with other neighborhood children when power had been restored after an outage. He remembers these moments fondly because, despite the difficulties of the frequent outages, the call also meant that people finally did have long-awaited electricity in their homes.
“I grew up without reliable electricity, so power is something I’ve always been interested in,” says Ayodeji, who is now a senior studying chemical engineering. He hopes to use the knowledge he has gained during his time at MIT to expand energy access in his home country and elsewhere in Africa.
Before coming to MIT, Ayodeji spent two years in Italy at United World College, where he embarked on chemistry projects, specifically focusing on dye-sensitized solar cells. He then transferred to the Institute, seeking a more technical grounding. He hoped that the knowledge gained in and out of the classroom would equip him with the tools to help combat the energy crisis in Lagos.
“The questions that remained in the back of my mind were: How can I give back to the community I came from? How can I use the resources around me to help others?” he says.
This community-oriented mindset led Ayodeji to team up with a group of friends and brainstorm ideas for how they could help communities close to them. They eventually partnered with the Northeast Children’s Trust (NECT), an organization that helps children affected by the extremist group Boko Haram. Ayodeji and his friends looked at how to expand NECT’s educational program, and decided to build an offline, portable classroom server with a repository of books, animations, and activities for students at the primary and secondary education levels. The project was sponsored by Davis Projects for Peace and MIT’s PKG Center.
Because of travel restrictions, Ayodeji was the only member of his team able to fly to Nigeria in the summer of 2019 to facilitate installing the servers. He says he wished his team could have been there, but he appreciated the opportunity to speak with the children directly, inspired by their excitement to learn and grow. The experience reaffirmed Ayodeji’s desire to pursue social impact projects, especially in Nigeria.
“We knew we hadn’t just taken a step in providing the kids with a well-rounded education, but we also supported the center, NECT, in raising the next generation of future leaders that would guide that region to a sustainable, peaceful future,” he says.