Inventors Club Whitechapel: Driving Social Change Through Technology Within London’s East End

Although I’m Cambridge born and raised and the library was where I spent most of my days (well not really, but I hope one can recognise my poor and laughable effort of referring to the Fresh Prince), my fascination of the richly-diverse region of Tower Hamlets in East London has grown exponentially in recent years.

I’ve been here so many times that I’ve lost count, but fortunately I don’t even need to use the GPS on my smartphone anymore. Seriously, you cannot begin to underestimate the value of battery life. Or maybe you do, so that’s surely a good thing. I think it’s fair to say that I know where most of the fried chicken shops are too; those succulent, tender, fried chicken wings… and let’s not forget the spicy lamb doner kebabs. An abundance of delicacies to get you salivating; just can’t seem to get enough (excuse the Depeche Mode reference, but let’s face it, I’m on a roll today!).

Commuting by train from Cambridge to London Liverpool Street before sauntering past the curry houses of Brick Lane, it was in this area of the East End that I was offered the opportunity to present a web series chat show for an online British Bangladeshi TV network. I learned from my presenting experiences that this was just one example of how Internet technologies can be utilised to make a positive difference and inspire young people, particularly those from deprived backgrounds. But inspiration is an entity that functions in multiple ways, and it is my encounter with Mohima Ahmed that encouraged me to highlight how technology is being utilised for a great cause – right at the heart of East London.

Mohima Ahmed is an Apps For Good trustee and a volunteer for Inventors Club Whitechapel (Photo Credit: Apps For Good)
Mohima Ahmed is an Apps For Good trustee and a volunteer for Inventors Club Whitechapel (Photo Credit: Apps For Good)

In August 2016, I had the privilege of meeting Mohima, a bright and talented biomedical engineering student from Imperial College London, who lives in Tower Hamlets. She is a trustee/fellow for Apps For Good, an open-source technology education movement that partners with educators in schools and learning centres to deliver their course content to young people. Mohima developed an English-to-Bengali translation app in 2011 for parent-teacher conferences. She revealed that she is a volunteer for Inventors Club Whitechapel – a small and ambitious group of young parents, local residents and enthusiasts aiming to bring the world of technology to children in Whitechapel.

Akik Miah is the founder of the club (Photo Credit: Inventors Club Whitechapel)
Akik Miah is the founder of the club (Photo Credit: Inventors Club Whitechapel)

The club was founded in February 2016 by Akik Miah, a systems designer, with the intention of introducing young people to coding, data networking, hardware and applications design. “Our aim is to provide kids with the best of opportunities that technology has to offer and help bring out the inventors in them,” he said. “Local youngsters are not aware of the opportunities on their doorstep so we are hoping to deliver something exciting to Tower Hamlets, and create opportunities for the next generation who want to pursue a career in the field of technology.”

Akik and his team of volunteers aim to work with local youngsters and bring out the inventors in them (Photo Credit: Inventors Club Whitechapel)
Akik and his team of volunteers aim to work with local youngsters and bring out the inventors in them (Photo Credit: Inventors Club Whitechapel)

Akik formed a multi-skilled team of local volunteers from various sectors, including law, finance, and academia to help with the running of the club. Mohima is very much a key figure of the group, a regular helper who interacts with the club’s younger members and explains to them what they can do with code. “My experiences of working with kids is more to do with building their confidence than anything else,” Mohima said. “Speaking to them, understanding their thoughts and ideas, and then supporting them is important, which is what I try to do in my role.”

Mohima is of Bangladeshi descent and feels that the Bangladeshi community has never been short of talent or ambition, but she believes a lot of bright young people are hindered by a lack of guidance and role models in the technology field. “The club aims to break down these barriers and show local kids that they really can do anything, or even invent the kit to do so! There’s no reason the next Mark Zuckerberg can’t come from Tower Hamlets and when they do, the natural altruism and charitable teachings embedded in our culture will see that this is a force for positive, world-changing good.”

The children are focused on their assignment (Photo Credit: Inventors Club Whitechapel)
The children are focused on their assignment (Photo Credit: Inventors Club Whitechapel)

Although the majority of the club’s members come from a Bangladeshi background, Mohima stated that it was set up to support all children living in Tower Hamlets and that there is a greater focus to encourage more female students to become involved. “We’re definitely trying to recruit more students from all backgrounds. We are also thinking about how to involve more girls in the club and provide a platform for their work,” she said. “I hope that the girls who have attended our sessions so far have learned that there’s definitely a place for them in the tech world too. There’s no specific “type” of girl either, nor is there a dress code. We’ve got women wearing Converses and women wearing Louboutins – all that matters is that we love what we do!”

Faizah (centre) is studying Education at university and is one of the volunteers at the club (Photo Credit: Inventors Club Whitechapel)
Faizah (centre) is studying Education at university and is one of the volunteers at the club (Photo Credit: Inventors Club Whitechapel)

My recent adventures in Tower Hamlets have filled me with inspiration. Inventors Club Whitechapel looks forward to 2017 with ambitious projects to continue their mission of highlighting and nurturing young and local talent. Although it is often described as one of London’s most deprived boroughs, I believe Tower Hamlets is a place where the next generation can look to create their own opportunities and make their dreams become a reality.

Time for me to munch on some chicken wings…


Source: Huffington Post UK
Date of Publication: 11th January 2017
Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ibrahim-rahman/inventors-club-whitechape_b_14049740.html

Ibrahim’s Review of 2016

I’m back! My first blog post of 2016! Let’s do the Sturridge…

Liverpool FC striker Daniel Sturridge is in the groove

Wait… what? Oh yes… I haven’t blogged all year. Oops. Sorry everyone. My ONLY blog post of 2016.

Technically that isn’t true though, I did write one blog post this year. It just wasn’t published on my website. More on that later…

I’ve got to say, 2016 has not been easy for me. It’s been a difficult year but on reflection there have been some great highlights to share, and I am determined to make my eighth review a positive one. It was a bright start to the year with the news that I had been shortlisted under the Services to Media category for the British Muslim Awards 2016. The awards ceremony took place on a cold evening in Birmingham where I lost out to BBC Asian Network presenter Noreen Khan, but I was up against many tough opponents in my category. Excuse the footballing analogy but it was like being a newly-promoted team in the Premier League for the first time, and you’re just happy to be there knowing you’re probably going to get relegated anyway… or somehow you’ll find a way to stay up! Analogies aside, that night in January was a memorable occasion and it was an honour to even have been shortlisted under this fiercely contested category. Well done Noreen for claiming the award, you fully deserved it!

Ibrahim with BBC Asian Network presenter and award-winner Noreen Khan

A month later, I left my presenting role at Cambridge 105 to join LB24tv, an online British Bangladeshi TV network based in East London. From February to September, I presented Youth Corner – a web series chat show for the youth. The aims of the programme were to showcase the achievements of emerging talent, providing a platform for guests to share their experiences and inspiring stories, and discuss topics that are important to them. It was great to gain TV presenting experience but I particularly enjoyed meeting guests and getting to know them. It felt rewarding to introduce fresh new faces and offer them a platform, considering how the majority of Bangladeshi media outlets I’ve come across, seem to frequently promote the same people and do not provide other hard-working and talented individuals a chance. Many thanks to Abu Ali, Cháyya Syal, Mizan RahmanShuhel Ahmed, Amira HaqueSafwaan ChoudhuryHalima Khanom, Uzma Chaudhry, Carl Francis, Mohima Ahmed, Sharmin Yousuf, and Sayful Alam for all being part of the show! Special thanks to the LB24tv production team for giving me the opportunity to present the show too!

Ibrahim presents the chat show web series “Youth Corner” for LB24tv
The guests (top-left to bottom-right): Abu Ali, Cháyya Syal, Mizan Rahman, Shuhel Ahmed; Amira Haque, Safwaan Choudhury, Halima Khanom, Uzma Chaudhry; Carl Francis, Mohima Ahmed, Sharmin Yousuf, Sayful Alam

My experiences with presenting Youth Corner inspired me to publish my first-ever article as a blogger for the Huffington Post in October, focusing on my utilisation of digital media to engage and empower the youth within the British Bangladeshi community. Massive thanks to Abu Ali, Amira Haque and Shuhel Ahmed for your valuable contributions!

I left LB24tv in September to undertake a TV production course every Saturday at the Cambridge TV School for nine weeks. It was fantastic! What impressed me the most about the course was how much of the work was practical. It was very much hands-on. From the very beginning we were testing out the TV cameras, filming at various locations in Cambridge, presenting and interviewing contributors in the Cambridge TV studio, and editing our captured video footage. I did a fair amount of presenting over those two months as well – the autocue was great fun to mess around with! It was a real pleasure to work with so many awesome people throughout the course, and I would like to thank everyone involved (staff and students) at the school for their amazing support and enthusiasm. I hope we get opportunities to collaborate again soon and I wish you all the best with your future endeavours!

Ibrahim presents “Behind the Brush” for Cambridge TV, a show that explores the work of Cambridge artists

I also managed to sandwich a TV appearance on The Daily Show with Joseph & Salma, a magazine lifestyle series chat show hosted by Joseph and Salma Hayat, on British Muslim TV (Sky 845). In November, I joined the couple in their fancy-looking studio by the London Docklands to talk about how I was engaging and empowering the youth through my work using digital media, drawing some parallels to what I wrote in my blog for the Huffington Post. Thank you Joseph and Salma for having me on your show! That round table changes colour by the way. Thought it was pretty cool…

Ibrahim appears on British Muslim TV’s “The Daily Show with Joseph and Salma”

And finally, I found out almost a couple of weeks ago that I had been shortlisted as a finalist in the Services to Creativity and Technology category at the British Muslim Awards 2017! The awards ceremony will take place next month at the Athena in Leicester. Yes, Leicester – the home of the 2015/16 Premier League Champions. Unbelievable, but what an achievement. Anyway, next year looks like it’s already off to a good start…

Oh yes, what’s happening with Ramadan Roundup? I’ve had a lot to do recently and as you can see, there hasn’t been a new episode in the series since 2014. The timing just hasn’t been right for me yet, but let’s see what happens next year. As it stands, I do believe there is at least one more episode to produce. It’s just a matter of making time. As my filmmaking friend Shuhel Ahmed will tell you, even work on his upcoming superhero comedy web series Classified Freaks has stalled in recent months, but I’m sure it will be worth the wait. I’m really looking forward to watching it!

And that’s pretty much it for this year. I leave you with an inspirational quote from Mufti Ismail Menk…

“The road of life doesn’t allow you to travel backwards. Keep going. There’s a reason for everything. You may not see it now; just trust!”

As always, thank you all so much for your support and kindness, and for following my adventures in 2016. I hope things look up for us in 2017. Best wishes to you all.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!