By Sharon Atieno and James Ochieng
With innovations being among the key drivers of the big four agenda in Kenya, universities have become hubs of brilliant technological advancements.
During a conference on Navigating COVID-19 Pandemic through University-Industry Linkages organized by Kenyatta University, various current and former students showcased their innovations which were geared towards improving the health sector, increasing food security, addressing water pollution among others.
Malaika Vital Watch
Christine Were, a fifth-year biomedical student at the University, displayed her Malaika Vital Watch which performs vital signs monitoring in a hospital environment or in home-based care. Were says this will help to reduce strain on the nurses who have to do about three or four ward rounds (depending on how busy the hospital is) to check on patients. It will also reduce the disturbance to the patient.
Additionally, if the watch is actualized and adopted by hospitals, it will also reduce the risk of cross-contamination between patient and nurse, nurse to nurse or patient to patient because of using the same equipment.
The device can provide 24-hour monitoring of vital parameters, which include pulse rate, heart rate and body temperature. It can also detect any deterioration in those parameters for fast intervention. The vital watch can automatically transmit the information to the nurse or caregiver for action. The water proof watch also has a geo-locater for tracking the location of the patient.
Simon Ndirangu, a biotechnologist has developed the Uhai Handler. This is a handle for doors, sinks, water dispensers and cupboards among others, which is self-sanitizing and does not require to be wiped to remove viruses and bacteria. It uses polylactic acids infused by nano particles- the kind of technology used by smart phones. The material used to make Uhai Handlers is also biodegradable and thus, does not pollute the environment.
Ndirangu says the innovation is readily available and one handle goes for as much as Kshs. 1000(USD 10). He says, the handle can be custom made into different shapes and colours. It can be used in office spaces, homes and hospitals.
Smart Triage System
Allan Koech, a fifth-year biomedical engineering student at Kenyatta University has developed the Smart Triage System. This is a machine used to improve sorting of patients at the health centre. The machine contains a system which is designed to collect vital signs from the patient, analyze and transmit the data collected to the nurse for action to be taken. The data collected will help clustering patients based on urgency of care.
According to Koech, the device has the potential to help reduce comorbidities during triage while also reducing hospital-based infections due to spending so much time queuing. Additionally, if adopted, it will help to shorten time spent at the hospital waiting to access treatment.
Jeff Ayoko, a biomedical student at Kenyatta University has come up with an innovation dubbed Pandagun which has the potential to ease and quicken the farming process by spacing, planting and applying fertilizer at the same time. The machine is a hand held machine which contains a geo locator and two compartments which can be used to carry two different types of seeds or seeds and fertilizer which reduces the work load.
The geo-locator enables the farmer to monitor how the machine has been used in the planting process for example, where have the seeds been planted as well as the spacing of the seeds from each other. The multi-planting capability of the machine is its biggest advantage.
With efforts ongoing to stop logging and reduce overdependence on wood fuel, Lawrence Kaburu’s innovation is a welcome gesture. The mechanical engineer from Moi University and linked to Kenyatta University’s Chandaria hub, has developed Jiko Poa which uses igneous rock as a source fuel.
The metal stove (Jiko poa) uses carbonized briquettes as a catalyst to heat the igneous rock – which is commonly used as a base layer during construction of roads-until it lights. The jiko has a fan which distributes the heat uniformly. The rocks are reusable and can be found locally. The technology can also be transferred and used in boilers and also steamers.
Purifying water through automated solar powered electrolysis
With water shortage and pollution being a big challenge in the country, Brian Omanya’s innovation on use of automated solar powered electrolysis cells for waste water treatment could be a solution. This is a cheaper alternative way to purify water compared to the one currently in use.
Through electrolysis, the dirty water is converted to hydrogen, oxygen and solid waste which can easily be dealt with. Though this technology is currently being tested on sewage and flood water, Omanya ‘s case is different as it uses solar power for electrolysis.
According to Omanya, the innovation could clean up to 5000 litres of water in about three to five hours depending on the size of the machines used in the electrolysis process.
With some of these innovations being work in progress as even the prototypes have not been developed, the Vice Chancellor Kenyatta University, Prof. Paul Wainaina said there is need to link these great innovations to industry for them to become actual products.
He noted that universities can only identify ideas and fund students to develop prototypes but they lack the muscle to move the prototypes to become actual products.
Prof. Wainaina called for the need for partnership between industry and universities to support the students to reach the final stage which is turning their ideas and innovations into main products which can help solve challenges.