Yohannes Bimrew Simegn (’25, Ethiopia), a Mastercard Foundation scholarship recipient, is many things at once: an inventor, a dreamer, and a determined and curious person constantly seeking to innovate and improve the world. He grew up in Gojjam, a rural community in Ethiopia with minimal modern technology, where agriculture is the primary source of income. From an early age, he worked on his family’s farm, caring for the animals, and taking on other responsibilities to help with the family’s economic activity. His father and younger brother died when Yohannes was a child, so he took on the heavy tasks in the fields.
Although life wasn’t easy, it motivated him to explore other interests. He had a strong desire to become more involved with his community and develop his passion: learning about technology and innovation. He spent weekends fixing broken radios and appliances in his neighborhood. At the same time, he began spending time with the community elders, with whom he discussed solutions to everyday problems. From them, he learned many stories about his father.
“They told me that my father liked to plant trees, which he did all his life. There are trees that he planted 30 years ago that are now growing tall. The elders gave me the responsibility that my father had assigned to himself when he was alive: communicate and unite with others, and help other people,” said Yohannes.
At 15, Yohannes received a full scholarship to attend the Lebawi International Academy in Addis Ababa, his country’s capital. “I had the opportunity to meet people with diverse experiences and skills, who inspired me to work on my projects in agriculture, energy, and aviation,” he said.
Back then, he worked with teenagers and taught them how to repair radios and flashlights. He provided electrical maintenance services to his community, taught himself electronics, and designed his own electrical board. Having grown up without electricity, Yohannes invented a handheld light for his community that ran without solar power or external sources.
Finally, he entered a competition organized by the Mastercard Foundation and the Ethiopian Job Creation Commission. He presented his project, Hulubeje Sustainable Energy, which consisted of a solar and micro-hydroelectric generator that used running water to create electricity and modernize agriculture for local producers. Hulubeje was one of the finalist projects, and Yohannes won $5,000 to launch his initiative.
“I have always felt committed to agriculture, but it’s not easy to live in the countryside. I have had opportunities, but my friends still live in Gojjam and do not have access to the same possibilities,” Yohannes explained. “I want to improve innovation and technology to have a direct impact on agriculture. I want to integrate the scientific method and work with others to improve living conditions in my community and my country.”
His plans for his community are already underway: he is working on incorporating innovative technologies such as satellites, drones, and agricultural machinery to improve producers’ practices.
Coming to EARTH has been Yohannes’ first step in achieving many of his dreams. He is currently part of the Spanish Language and Cultural Immersion Program to learn the language while preparing to start his education at our University. He has always dreamed of working on agricultural projects throughout Africa and knows that EARTH will provide him with the experiences and resources to succeed.
“During this experience, I want to share diverse and real solutions with people from different countries who face various problems,” he added. “I want to see myself in these four years expanding my impact in the world and challenging myself.”
Welcome to our home, Yohannes!