By HENRY OWINO (Senior Science Correspondent)

While Kenyans have been known over the years for taking center stage in different things including being masters of World athletics, a growing crop of young Kenyans are proving that beyond Olympics. Kenya has the potential to produce trailblazing innovations with the capacity to transform the world.

Birthed mainly through necessity, these innovations have developed ways to solve day to day challenges we experience. Some of these innovations are tech-driven while others could take advantage of natural resources to power them up.

The missing link for a long time has been ways to discover, identify and nurture the talents of the young people especially at secondary schools level. However, through Science Congress competitions held annually by secondary schools involved in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), serious technologies and innovations have been discovered.

Dr Kevit Desai, PS Ministry of Education, State Department of Vocational and Technical Training and Chairperson of the YSK Board addressing students from Maryhill Girls High School

As a result, initially known as Science Congress, nowadays as Kenya Science and Engineering Fair (KSEF), has caught government attention. Subsequently, it is now becoming popular as Young Scientists Kenya (YSK) Exhibition hence a Premier Science Competition in Kenya.

Mr Collins Munene, NYS National Director, said the Government recognizes YSK talents as a key driver to innovation and socio-economic development in the country.

“Last year (July 2018), was the first ever YSK Exhibition held at Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), Nairobi. It saw 92 projects presented by 160 students during a two-day event,” Mr Munene said.

Wilson Irungu, a student aged 17 in Form 4 and his colleague Abdulrahman Sheikh Ali, 18 years old in Form 4, from Nakuru High School emerged overall winners. Their project was centered in “Revolutionary Internet-Based Energy Monitoring and Audit System Concept”.

According to Master Irungu, the online power system is extended to measure energy consumption parameters to individual machines. In addition, it helps in the analysis of consumption of various machines and for appropriate steps taken.

“Kenyans are losing a lot because there is no an efficient method of energy consumption monitoring and control,” Master Ali, explained.

“The system also has a control circuit which helps in switching on/off the load based on consumption. The device can operate with both AC&DC power supplies so one can automatically switch to one using the other,” Irungu explained. The commanding is done through a wireless communication system using a phone.” He added.

Irungu said monitoring and auditing energy consumption have been a great concern in Kenya society. Power companies employ auditing firm and send employees to individual houses to deliver the services.

“Our project aims to do away with these firms by providing audit mechanism to the users. The consumers can monitor energy consumption per day and audit units used per week/months,” Irungu asserted.

“The energy company is able to save on transport cost and other inconveniences and also reduces chances of corruption deals,” Irungu revealed.

The two students won Ksh100, 000 and mobile phones courtesy of YSK, the Embassy of Ireland and BLAZE by Safaricom. They also got fully paid trip to showcase at the BT Young Scientists & Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) in Ireland that ran between 9 -12 January, 2019.

Guests leaving Ndururuno Secondary School exhibition tent to main event tent at Jamhuri High School

However, this year’s YSK Exhibition 2019, the two are likely face stiff competition from other students compared to last year 2018. This is because several secondary schools have picked up the initiative positively and are doing amazing innovation work.

This comes after President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive to the Ministry of Education to take the YSK outreach programme to all the 47 counties. It also signaled the importance of STEM to national development agenda since President Kenyatta is the current patron of YSK.

The President directives has since seen YSK partnering with the Ministry of Education, the Centre for Mathematics, Science and technology Training in Africa (CEMASTEA), the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI), the Ireland and sponsors such as Safaricom, the Institute of Physics, Concern Worldwide and the French Embassy to scale up its outreach programme to reach 275 schools.

“The inaugural competition saw us visit 80 schools in 10 counties in 2018. This year, Embassy of Ireland helped us meet our objective of making STEM accessible to students all over the country, even those in the arid and semi-arid lands,” said Prof John Tony Scott, Co-Founder of the Irish Young Scientist and Technology initiative.

“Last year’s entries gave us new insights and perspective on the endless possibilities we can explore to shatter myths about STEM subjects being tough, boring or inaccessible and give students platforms to exhibit their talents in STEM,” Prof Scott affirmed.

Mr Collins Munene, NYS National Director, is very optimistic that the national high school STEM outreach programme targeting an average of 1500 students in each of the 47 counties is possible. And it would precede this year’s YSK National Science and Technology Exhibition, taking place from 5-9 August, 2019.

Young Scientist from Jamhuri High School explains robotic technology project to a visitor

The recent YSK Media Launch at Jamhuri High School on 11 July, 2019, five schools participated to showcase their innovative projects, a good indication. These include Ndururuno Secondary School, Maryhill Girls High School, S.C.L.P.Samaj School, Nakuru High School, and Jamhuri High.

Mr Munene revealed that Precious Blood-Riruta, Bururu Girls and Jamhuri High Schools are the only full-fledged STEM schools currently in Nairobi County.

Ndururuno Secondary School located in Mathere slums, Nairobi County are exhibiting Statistical Analysis of Crime within Mathare slums. This is a rare innovation in social sciences but a major challenge of any society in the world.

From left_ Buxton Mungau, teacher Mike Wafula and Syprose Akinyi of Ndururuno Secondary School in Mathare slums

Miss Syprose Akinyi, 16 years old in Form 3 and Master Buxtone Mungau aged 17 in Form 3 from Ndururuno Secondary School are the students behind the innovation pioneering the environmental research on social sciences.

A rare opportunity to identify and compare types and causes of crime as well as investigate crime mitigation strategies currently employed to curb the menace within Mathare slums.

According to Miss Akinyi, many factors have been attributed to the ever increasing crime rate in Kenya and how it affects different human societies.

Miss Akinyi Argues: “Crime erodes social cohesion and eventually leads to social instability. Crime also affects economic development of any society. It hurts both foreign and local investments. However, the proceedings of these studies cannot always be generalized across all societies.”

Students (Left)Buxtone Mungau and Syprose Akinyi (right) from Ndururuno Secondary School explains to guests how their project works in Mathare slums

Consequently, Master Mungau claims the need to have studies that target particular groups of interests. “That case in point thus forms the basis of this study,” Mungau clarifies.
The two young social scientists’ study targets to identify and compare the types and causes of crime, as well as investigate crime mitigation strategies, currently employed to curb the menace within Mathare slums.

While Jamhuri High School, Masters Abdulbasit Hassan and Meshack Chweya both 16 years old and in Form 2 are scientists in the making. The two together with other classmates are exploring robotic technology.

“We are trying to come up with an evolution in robot excavator intended to substitute human in performing simple repetitive tasks,” Hassan explained. The aim is to minimize human involvement in industries where work must be performed in environments hazardous to humans.” He added.

(Left)Abdulbasit Hassan and Meshack Chweya (right) from Jamhuri High School holding their robotic robotic technology devices.

So, the robotic technology is intended to develop machines that can be a substitute for humans and replicate human actions. The technology is automatically operated machine that replaces human effort especially in industries as automobile construction.

Maryhill Girls High School is also coming up with automated smart greenhouse project headed by Miss Juliet Gathu and Faith Muthaka. They are very optimistic to challenge other YSK in this year’s expo to emerge champions.

Prepare to see more innovations in the field of science, agriculture, health, technology, energy, financial audit systems among others as the students showcase their award-winning projects at the forth coming Second YSK Exhibition.