2018, a year of student innovations

Monday December 17 2018

Students of International University of East

Students of International University of East Africa are part of a team building a robotically driven home surveillance system. FILE PHOTO  

By Desire Mbabaali

As we wrap up the year, it is only fair that we acknowledge the many achievements our education sector has achieved but most importantly the strides our students have made in as far as innovation is concerned.

We saw a number of innovations in the areas of ICT, robotics, agriculture and health, among others. In fact at the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) exhibition in March under the theme: Higher education for the future: Strengthening Innovations for Sustainable Development, more than 40 institutions of higher learning exhibited innovations. Although some may still be just prototypes, this is a step in the right direction that deserves applause.

Software applications
Innocent Nyato, a third year student of Information Technology at Kampala International University, brought to Facebook a Personal Clinic.
This application helps users find and make appointments with doctors as well as hospitals in the different localities and helps in diagnostics. The information is categorised in the doctors’ different specialties.
The difference between this innovation and a few others is the fact that it can be accessed through an individual’s Facebook account.
“If you have a Facebook or messenger account, you simply search for Personal Clinic and access it,” Nyato said.

In addition to helping people find doctors, hospitals and diagnostics, the App also works within one’s location, so you select your location and access data specific to you.

In agriculture, Denis Semyalo, a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering student at Makerere University, with his ‘You Innovate’ club of students innovated a Geographical Information System Software (ArcGis), an agricultural tool used to identify areas suitable for agriculture in western Uganda.

The ArcGis software has data/information on soil; soil type, climatic factors such as rainfall levels, topography, present land use and land cover, suitable areas for agriculture, among others.

Additionally, Imran Kasujja, a business student and guild minister in charge of ICT at Makerere University, after building his first mobile application, the MakApp in 2016 which is a map of Makerere University is currently building a transportation application.

This is for travellers in Kampala going upcountry that will be a hub of transport service providers (buses). It will basically look at where to find the parks, routes and destinations of particular buses and fares of different routes. Travellers will be able to use the application to book in advance and will be able to know their seat number, time of departure and arrival as well as showing traffic on different roads while offering alternatives.

What makes these innovations relevant is that we live in a time where people prefer convenience, quick services at the tip of their fingers.

Kidan Tesfay and Andrew Bakashaba students of International University of East Africa are part of a team building a robotically driven home surveillance system.

This smart home surveillance system has multiple functions. It is able to; pick up sound around the house, take videos, see what is at a distance, detect obstacles and control the lighting system in a home using a timer. It will also be able to pick feedback and movements in the compound or house. The students have the body where the sockets will be housed ready, have done the coding and built a control module/app to be connected to a mobile app for use.

Social innovations
Norbert Twizire’s innovation on the other hand was geared towards solving some of our social issues. The third year student of St. Lawrence University came up with an affordable way of making homemade sanitary pads and pampers using paper and banana fiber, cotton clothes, lining and polythene papers as raw materials.
“During my Senior Six vacation, I was a teacher in a primary school and noticed that most female pupils went absent during menstruation as a result of lack of sanitary pads and thought of a way to help them out. I have for the past two years been working on the pads,” Twizire noted.

He also partners with a number of women groups and non-governmental organisations who hire him to train their people on how to make these homemade sanitary pads. Menstrual hygiene in schools is a contentious issue and such innovations could be what we need.

An environmentalist and student of St Lawrence University, Moses Mukiibi, thought of a solution to the synthetic waste that is everywhere by making plastic pavers out of them. He uses plastic bottles, polythene bags, plastic tins and all other kinds of plastics which he melts and recreates plastic pavers that are strong and water resistant and durable at his Kisugu Hidden Treasure in Trash Company.

We have learned about the effects that plastics have on the environment and having a useful and feasible way of recycling these, not only keeps the environment safe but rids us of garbage but is also a source of employment and income.

At Nile Vocational Institute, Jinja, students of the Plumbing Department innovated a solar-powered water harvester system, that once complete, will harvest and supply water around a home or farm. The water is collected by gutters into the reservoir where a non-corrosive pump is placed. This is used to pump water through the supply tank to different destinations as one may need.

Additionally, Denis Semyalo and his peers, Denis Tumusiime and Ivan Ojandu Mechanical Engineering finalists at Makerere University designed a Hay baler, a machine designed to bind/compress hay into bales. “The normal hay baler is a big, expensive machine which not a many people can afford. We, therefore, created something that is cheap, portable, easy to use and can be used by subsistence farmers, small and large scale commercial farmers,” Ojandu noted. The group already has someone r to build them the prototype.

According to Dr Grace Lubaale of Kyambogo University, if students are taught how to innovate using simple means, the problem of unemployment among the youth will be solved. He, however, noted that the adoption and exploration of innovative ideas in education is still a challenge that schools need to address. “Instead of many educators clinging to old and increasingly ineffective methods of teaching, it is better to use innovative teaching methods. This will help to produce a type of students that think outside the box, who can use what is available to bring about something new,” he said.

Throughout the year, a number of events were also organised by different entities geared towards motivating, exhibiting and appreciating innovations.

NCHE. More than 40 institutions of higher learning exhibit innovations at the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) exhibition in March.

The Kampala Innovation Week. This year brought together innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, and corporates from all around the region in Kampala to get inspired, learn, share ideas and make new contacts. Roundtable and influencer sessions were held throughout the five days on subjects such as Health tech, Fintech Artificial Intelligence, Agriculture, Growth, hacking, Cloud Technologies, VR, Data, Branding, Media, Product Development, Funding among others.

KCCA Technology Innovations Competition. These were targeting Ugandan students and graduates who can give working solutions to challenges faced by citizens and the government. This year’s theme: ‘Citizen reporting’ required a solution that will improve citizens’ reporting on services in their areas offered by KCCA such as; maintenance of roads, street lighting, and waste management.
Source: Hiretheyouth.com