Monika Akhter Momo is a 10th grader at the Mirpur Bangla High School. She describes Physics as simply, "not her thing". In fact, she finds Physics so incomprehensible as a subject that she has grown to fear it.
"I studied that a bulb will light up if we connect it to a battery, a conductor and a switch. But if you give me all these parts, I do not think I can ever make a circuit. That is because nobody has ever shown me how to do it and I am not very clear about the mechanism," she added.
Momo's school has a Physics lab, but they get access to do experiments once in a blue moon, mostly before the board examination.
This scenario is very common in almost all the schools in our country. And it is not only because the schools do not have the means or the intention to provide hands-on practical training to the students, but also due to the huge discrepancy in the ratio of students to teachers.
Easy-to-manage quizzes or standardised tests are never the most effective way to assess a student's understanding of a science subject. In-depth knowledge can only be gained through real-life involvement with the topics.
And, in our country, there is certainly a gap between studying science subjects and truly understanding them through practice.
This led to the founding of Wizkit, an educational technology company empowering youth involvement in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) through research, innovation, product development and training.
Bushra E Anjum and Mushfiqur Rahman Saad, the CEO and the COO of Wizkit, both individually experienced this gap in our study system during their time as students and were inspired to address it.
"In 2018, when I was in my junior year at university, I saw one of my classmates memorising the entire experiment and doing it without even understanding what she was doing. Not that I had not seen this before, but seeing this being done by a university student, that too by a student of an applied subject like Microbiology, was a little hard to digest," Bushra said.
On the other hand, Saad, a student of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, always believed that subjects like this should be fun, interactive and innovative. But the learning system in practice is making it boring, hard and unnecessarily complicated.
In an attempt to bring out the fun part of learning, Bushra and Saad came up with the idea to start a platform that provides hands-on learning opportunities to students. And that is how Wizkit was formed.
The formation of Wizkit dates back to 2017 when Saad participated in YGAP's Accelerator Programme with the idea of building a platform that would give the students hands-on educational opportunities for effective learning.
At YGAP, Saad received extensive training, business support and mentorship. He even won The Best Entrepreur's award by public choice from the cohort, which granted him 1,000 Australian dollars.
With that money, along with his own funds, he started Wizkit.
Wizkit began by offering training programmes and skill development courses for university students, mostly on robotics, coding, etc. Wizkit was operating from three different locations back then. They set up an office at Uttara, took a private office room in a co-working space at Bashundhara and another in Fab Lab in Gulshan.
Fab Lab, a digital fabrication laboratory, is basically a global movement. Located in different countries, Fab Lab is a place where anyone can make (almost) anything, using digital designing, 3D printing, laser cutting and other advanced technological means.
"Having three different offices in three different areas gave us a great initial boost. We could explore a wide range of schools, and so more students had access to our offices," added Bushra.
Wizkit also collaborated with different universities like IUB, Sust, Pust (Pabna) and conducted workshops there.
Resilience during the Covid-19
Like countless other startups, the pandemic caused a great deal of damage to the startup. All of their offices had to be shut down, but Wizkit refused to accept defeat.
They started by repurposing its product development and research teams. They switched to making 3D printed face shields, ear savers and prototypes of instant emergency ventilators. All of these products were made by the students of Wizkit and distributed to those on the front lines.
"Till date, our 3D printed face shields have helped 1,700 doctors and front line personnel to stay safe. 500 more are rolling out as we speak. Additionally, each day we are printing 120 face shields and ear savers on an average to support medical professionals," informed Mushfiqur Rahman Saad.
Kits for kids
The pandemic has wreaked havoc globally but it presented Wizkit with a distinct opportunity to do something about it. The team became heavily involved in research and development, which accelerated the business's products line.
Wizkit wanted to extend its services to the younger generation. The primary focus of their research was to design a product that would make the students interested in science from a very early age.
"After the lockdown, the world has seen a hybrid learning culture. We have to agree that, like schools, homes are also a great place for learning if facilitated with necessary equipment. So we started making interactive science kits for kids through which they can actively learn both in their homes and at school," said Saad.
Launched at the end of 2021, these kits are designed for children ranging from 5 to 12 years.
These kits are in some ways similar to existing science kits in the Bangladeshi market but their uniqueness lies in their gamified approach, where kids feel they are playing games instead of feeling pushed to learn in the name of an activity.
Each kit features more than 20-30 experiments and what is unique about their kits is that kids can come up with their own combination of experiments due to its modular nature.
To date, Wizkit has introduced four different kits and has sold more than 500 units. Wizkit's highly anticipated product "Math Kit Series" will be available soon. All these kits are aligned with the national curriculum.
"It takes four to five months to design and develop a new version of the kit, and we are very patient during our research and development. We are focused on increasing accessibility and creating anything previously unavailable," added Saad.
Wizkit has collaborated with several renowned English medium schools in Dhaka and provided them with customised kits, based on the school's curriculum.
They have even collaborated with non-profit schools like Moitree Shishu Shadhan and Alokito Hridoy Foundation. Moitree Shishu Shadhan is Wizkit's own innovation school located in Thanchi, Bandarban.
In 2021, Wizkit's annual revenue crossed Tk14 lakh. The business is growing at a rate of 70% every year since 2018.