UT team's mobile education initiative vying for $1M prize

By Ashley Jeffery, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, September 25, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT

The Tembo Education team at the University of Tampa has one goal in mind: to educate 10 million children living in urban slums by the year 2020.

Ulixes Hawli, Phil Michaels, Samantha Taranto, Sercan Topcu and Brent Caramanica are the five members of Tembo vying for the $1 million Clinton Global Initiative Hult Prize to be announced on Saturday.

The team spent months in Nigeria training and employing home educators to teach parents how to educate their children by using text messages. The team assessed the process through quizzes via text. If the child answered correctly, the parents were rewarded with free airtime in cell minutes and texts.

“We ultimately decided to operate in sub-Saharan Africa primarily because 50 percent of the world’s population of children, from the ages of zero to six, lived in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Hawli. “In addition to that, 86-89 percent of the people living in these urban slum communities have access to a mobile phone.”

Team Tembo's idea beat 20,000 teams, including all 8 Ivy League schools to become one of six finalists. Tembo is the only team in the United States to make it this far in the competition.

“We’re nervous, we’re anxious, we’re sleep deprived but ultimately when we get on stage, see President Clinton and the former Prime Minister of Australia we’ll be prepared to give it our all,” said Hawli.

Watch party information

UT is hosting a watch party of the live stream of the finals on Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Lowth Entrepreneurship Center in the Innovation and Collaboration Building on campus (corner of Kennedy Boulevard and North Boulevard).

All proceeds from the party will benefit Tembo, but media is free and welcome to attend. As of Friday morning, more than 100 individuals have registered to attend the party.
                  
The live stream will be broadcast on multiple large screens, refreshments will be provided, raffles will be held, and there will be live video check-ins from UT Entrepreneurship Center faculty and staff Rebecca White and Kevin Moore, who accompanied Tembo to New York City.
                  
For more information, go to tinyurl.com/Tembo2015, or contact Eric Liguori, assistant professor of entrepreneurship, at eliguori@ut.edu, or (813) 257-3600.