Jkuat unveils anti-Corona innovations

Thursday, May 7th, 2020 00:00 |
Stella Wandoe (left), chairperson of Inua Mama community-based organisation, trains persons living with disability (PLWDs) on how to curb the spread of Covid-19 at KD Kwabulo area in Mombasa county, yesterday. The PLWDs also received food donations from the lobby. Photo/PD/BONFACE MSANGI

Oliver Musembi

Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Jkuat) is the latest institution of higher learning to unveil various innovations to help combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

The university’s innovations include two portable solar-powered ventilators that use a 12-voltage battery, a contact tracing application, a digital system that predicts Covid-19 infection trends in Kenya and an automatic solar-powered hand-washing machine.

Vice-Chancellor Prof Victoria Ngumi termed the developments by a multi-disciplinary team of engineers, researchers and innovators a huge breakthrough in the country’s anti-coronavirus war.

According to one of the innovators Karanja Kabini, a mechatronics engineer, the ventilators, whose raw materials are locally available, are highly reliable and can operate for two weeks without maintenance.

“It has a control panel that can vary the breathing rate, the operator can increase or reduce the amount of oxygen and it can be used by adults and children,” Kabini said. 

The gadgets are light and can be easily transported and used at any point of need.

Prof Ngumi said the university’s engineering department had the capacity to produce 10 ventilators weekly, which would go a long way in addressing the existing shortage in the country.

The Contact Tracing and Case Management App developed by Jkuat students Victor Muthembwa, Boniface Bundi and Crispus Nyaberi will help identify who, where and when a person gets into contact with a Covid-19 positive individual.

“The App has been upgraded to include triage and case management functions that solve the cumbersome nature of manual records currently being used in most areas across the country,” Bundi said.

The researchers described the contact tracing app as an important asset in the fight against Covid-19 because it is digital and specifically focuses on tracing contacts who use public transport. 

The students have already partnered with Super Metro buses which ply the Nairobi-Thika route as well as Kikuyu and Uthiru areas which has been a success. They intend to roll out the app countrywide soon.

The automated solar-powered handwashing machine is another creative innovation by Pan African University’s Institute for basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (Pausti).

Pausti is housed at Jkuat and is meant to help the community around Juja and Kiambu county at large to keep off the scourge.

Create jobs

“Most of the materials and applications used to fabricate the automatic hand-washer were locally sourced and the machine can be used in the remotest parts of Africa that are not connected to power,” said Reine Katte, the chair of Pausti entrepreneurship and innovation club. 

She is also a second-year student pursuing civil engineering and hails from Benin.

Besides fighting the pandemic, Katte said the group of about six students from the region hope to create one million jobs on the continent through the Agenda 2063, which embraces innovation.

“The innovation is a significant contribution by Jkuat in supporting government strategies to combat the pandemic through prediction of infections,” the VC said.

Prof Ngumi expressed optimism that research and innovation at the institution would continue long after the coronavirus is contained.

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