This Zim ed-tech startup is boosting science learning in schools with AR

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Zimbabwean startup Phenomenon Technologies has developed an app that looks to help African schools overcome funding issues and access science models to boost levels of education.

Phenomenon Technologies was formed in 2018 by high school science teacher Nkosana Masuku after he faced difficulties in teaching students pure sciences as they failed to understand abstract scientific phenomena. 

It initially rolled out a product called FundoVR, which assisted students in experiencing science experiments and field excursions through virtual reality, but pivoted to a new approach in late-2019 after the startup became the first Zimbabwean company to take part in the Google Launchpad Africa Accelerator. 

That new approach was Sciency Learning, an app that provides students with a pocket augmented reality lab where they can experience science models at the fraction of the cost of imported ones. The startup rolls out the app by dealing directly with both schools and students.

“The pivot was because FundoVR was not easily scalable as it required thousands of VR headsets. We then made the shift to augmented reality as it was easier to scale,” Masuku told Disrupt Africa.

Though there are many ed-tech startups, Masuku said when it comes to science students need to learn in a more applied and practical way. 

“The Sciency app provides students with AR experiences so that they can interact and experience science at an in-depth and macromolecular level. We are therefore an applied learning startup building a unique learning experience. There are few of such startups as most focus on e-learning,” he said.

The app was launched in July of last year, and currently has over 2,000 users with strong monthly growth. Masuku is expecting even quicker expansion after signing a partnership with MEL Science through the Melanin Tuungane programme, which seeks to help African startups collaborate with European companies. The partnership is designed to help the Sciency app scale throughout Southern Africa over the course of this year.

“We are still at an early-stage and have generated revenue which has validated our business model. We make money through subscriptions on the app. However because we recently launched the application, we have been working more towards tailoring the experience towards our users so as to provide a truly portable lab – thus our recent signing with MEL Science, making us the first African startup to sign such a big collaboration deal with them,” said Masuku.

Phenomenon Technologies, which will open its seed round in 2021, has been held back slightly by COVID-19 in that the pandemic limited its contact with schools.

“We have therefore used mostly digital and social media-based marketing as schools have remained closed in Zimbabwe until recently. We have partnered with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to help us grow faster,” Masuku said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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