Thursday, November 08, 2012

African inventors use simple design to do complex work

One of the great things about Africa is the resourcefulness of the people. Especially for the people who have little, they can still do a lot with it. An inventor’s fair that just wrapped up in Logos, Nigeria proves this point. What is especially surprising about this fair is the simplicity of the inventions. They use everyday household items to make energy conserving lamps, or work saving machines. It's a lot different than the complex design and the wealth of resources that inventors in the western world have.

From the Guardian, writer Yinka Ibukun shows us some of the inventions at the Maker Faire Africa.

In the large outdoor space, a mini-generator – similar to those used in many households across the country to boost the national grid's intermittent power supply – coughs to a start. However, students had removed its fuel tank and powered two outlet boxes and a lamp using urine. "We encourage our students to think up ideas that will solve Nigerian problems," said Lawal Oluseyi Olaide, the science project supervisor at Doregos private academy in Lagos.
The fair featured a mobile multicrop processor for cassava and other local crops, worth about £3,700, in a country where a lot of the farm processing is still done using traditional techniques. "What women on the farms do in five hours, this machine does in five minutes," said Suleiman Famro, adding that his machine would allow them to clean the cassava and collect its starch.
Ibrahim Adekunle, 27, a blacksmith, said he started innovating after getting tired of waiting for work in his shop. His latest creation, nicknamed "the entertainment Jeep", is a vehicle that can carry a large speaker. He rents it out with a DJ during carnivals and rallies to supplement his irregular income. It earns him up to £600 during festive months.
Famro and Adekunle were among a handful of adult innovators at a fair dominated by children. Gerard Odo, a soft-spoken 12-year-old, travelled from the south-eastern city of Enugu with his mother to show his robotic toy excavator. He built its body using plywood and added hydraulic cylinders with the help of syringes. "If he could do that with no resource, imagine what a generation of people like him could do," said Emeka Okafor, a Maker Faire Africa co-founder, blogger and New York-based social entrepreneur.

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