Mohammed El Raffei

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2012


This profile was prepared when Mohammed El Raffei was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Mohammed seeks to bring science to life for young Egyptians because he believes such experiences cultivate self-confidence, creativity, resourcefulness, and teamwork that is needed to drive a new Egypt. His Competition Of Robot Design (CORD) challenges groups of young people to create a robot that moves, using materials in their homes or communities, and if necessary, low-cost store-bought items. This model creates a leveling effect and welcomes participation from all socioeconomic classes. The competition’s “no prior knowledge necessary” aspect further democratizes the opportunity.

Mohammed focuses on robots, in particular, because these complex, dynamic machines are often seen as the epitome of a sophisticated, scientific world unattainable to the average person. Once a young person builds a machine with simple materials and a team of peers, what had been previously dismissed—even if subconsciously—becomes doable. Some participants will go on to pursue science in more depth, which Mohammed nurtures through his Robo Academy, providing Egypt with the well-rounded science experts so instrumental in the 21st century. Others will bring these newly cultivated skills to other arenas in need of innovation.

While the competition focuses on ages 18 to 25, Mohammed is in the process of creating opportunities for younger people to engage in a similar experience. After a pilot which included eighty children between the ages of 8 and 12, he is now working with the Ministry of Education and an Egyptian citizen organization (CO) to implement a robot-creating curriculum—whose English meaning is, “the best things come from nothing”—into the country’s public schools.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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