Encouraging young scientists to invent

The science of today is the technology of tomorrow, this phrase was well translated by the young secondary school students of the country who took part in the science exhibition earlier this month. The two-day event, organised by Young Scientists Tanzania [a unique programme in Africa encouraging practical training] witnessed 80 secondary schools taking part from 26 regions of Tanzania who showcased their talents in science disciplines.

The project that stood out

Prosper Gasper and Eric Simon’s project, titled, ‘The use of mobile network as a fire alarm system’ became the most talked about presentation during the two-day event. “Our project aims at improving people’s lives as it boosts their security against fire, the disaster that has cost families and the nation billions of shillings in damage,” Eric explained in an interview with Success.

Prosper and Eric used a mobile phone network as a trigger of a fire alert system, which they attached to a security system alarm. According to both the boys who represented St Jude Secondary School in Arusha, they combined the knowledge they have on electronic devices and mobile phone to construct something that can save people’s lives. “We applied some electronic skills that we had to tackle a problem that face our societies. We used mobile phone, smoke sensors and other electronic instruments to make a fire alert system,” said Prosper.

On further explaining about their project that caught visitors’ eyes during the exhibition, the boys told Success that the communication innovation of a mobile phone itself served more purpose than just sending short text messages or phone calls.

“The system that we created works very. The smoke sensor plays the role of distributing signals to a mobile phone handset in case a fire breaks. When the signals strike into the mobile phone handset, it converts them immediately and makes a call to fire-fighters and the owner of the facility that caught fire. Also a smoke detector sends signals to the emergency exit door automatically. All this happens simultaneously,” explained Prosper.

The innovation by Prosper and Eric emerged the overall winner of the exhibition. The boys scooped the ‘Young Scientists Tanzania of the year trophy’, worth Sh1,350,000 and Karimjee Jivanjee Education Scholarship that will cover winners’ higher [university] studies. They will also represent the country in the Eskom Expo International Science Fair scheduled in October this year in Johannesburg, South Africa. “We are overjoyed. We finally did it,” exclaimed the young scientists commending the organisers of the exhibition, saying the forum shows the growth of technology in Tanzania.

The young innovators left a footprint

Education stakeholders in Tanzania see such an exhibition as an important one as students get an opportunity and a platform to explain about their innovations and concepts. Professor Simon Msanjila, the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology encourages both primary and secondary schools to cultivate the tendency of frequently staging science exhibitions.

This equips and boosts students’ public speaking skills and confidence as they present, explain and defend their innovation models in front of a panel of judges, fellow students, teachers, parents and other visitors.

During the award giving ceremony at the end of this year’s Young Scientists Tanzania exhibition, Prof Msanjila said, “I urge students to love and make a relationship with science.” Stephano Chacha and Naima Mohamed from Vingunguti Secondary School in Dar es Salaam were also the receivers of Karimjee Jivanjee Foundation scholarship for their creation called ‘Free Energy Farming Tool.’

Their project, which is environment-friendly, converts solar energy into motion energy aids in rotation of the blades attached to a motor designed to dig the soil. “It can be used anywhere provided that there are sun rays. One just needs to have the panel that converts solar power into energy,” added Stephano.

“As you press a button to switch on the machine, the blades rotate. The rotation speed and strength of the blades depends on the amount of energy the machine gets from the solar battery. The more the input power the stronger the speed of the blades,” Stephano further explained the simple science behind their creation.

The tool is important as it helps farmers to minimise the time they spend in preparing their farms. Naima adds,“Also the tool can help farmers during weeding. If the plants are in the rows, they can use the tool to cut off weeds which are in between the rows.” The multi-purpose farming tool can also help farmers to cover fertilizer with the soil hence minimising the loss of fertilizer.

The basic idea is to minimise cost and time of production and maximise profit for farmers since few workers can prepare the large piece of land in a short period of time. The design is very good for small scale farmers who are engaging in agro-business, according to the creators.

Benitho Sutta, their teacher, commended his students for the innovation, saying that the machine will help farmers to cuts labour force and time one can use in production.

“Through this tool, a farmer can employ only one person who can operate the machine, which is environment-friendly. It produces no exhausted fumes or any other harmful smoke,” noted the Physics teacher who teaches Form Four and Form Two classes at Vingunguti Secondary School.

According to him, the idea behind the construction of such a tool was to help small scale farmers ease their work and abandon the hand hoe. “I think my students have achieved their goal. The machine uses solar energy which is free for farmers to improve their production,” he said. Both Naima and Stephano expressed their joy for being selected one among the winners who were awarded scholarship.

Budding of self-confident innovators

Young Scientists Tanzania exhibition is the place for students to build up their inner self confidence, the thought coinciding with Hudhaifat Hamdan and Abdul Banisheyba from Suza Secondary School in Zanzibar.

The two students who had exhibited their project titled, ‘En Route for Edible Bug Juice’, told Success that apart from competing for prizes with other participating students, the exhibition has exposed them to what other students are capable of doing when it comes to innovation.

“Events like this make me to believe in myself. Now I know that there is no such a thing as a small idea. Whenever an idea comes up in my mind, I will have to write it down so that I can work on it in future,” noted Abdul. Abdul and Hudhaifat said that their idea was centred on making pesticide by using raw materials, which can easily be obtained and are available in our surroundings such as lantana leaves, garlic, cloves and lemon grass. “We came up with the idea after observing how most people use pesticides, believed that they contain manufactured chemicals harmful to human beings and the environment at large. We think what we have created can replace pesticides, which are not environment and health-friendly,” noted Hudhaifat.

“During trials of pesticides we made, we proved that clove oil kills termites while garlic also kills houseflies. The two substances can also be used to repel houseflies, cockroaches and termites,” said Abdul.

The education stakeholders present at the Young Scientists Tanzania exhibition commended the initiative that it was an impressive event and a success as it provides a forum for students to tackle various challenges and find some scientific solution to solve them.