Netia McCray of Mbadika

Netia McCray of Mbadika

I met Netia McCray at Maker Fair Africa yesterday. She’s an MIT grad who’s working on a project called Mbadika (it means “idea” in the North Angolan language of Kimbundu), which is about teaching kids the basics of electronic prototyping. She does this using some very inexpensive solar-charging kits, designed to be put together and understood in an educational workshop, or on their own.

Mbadika is a new program, so they’re just getting off the ground themselves, however they’ve already taught 250+ kids in 6 countries.

Inside the Mbadika solar kits

Mbadika solar kits

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As a father, I can appreciate the simplicity of this kit, having worked through some more complicated electrical engineering kits with my own children. There’s value in having something that is immediately buildable by a 10 year old that they can put to use right away. They can design/paint it how they like and make it their own.

You can help them out on the new South African crowdfunding site, ThundaFund.

Maker Faire Africa 2012 in Pictures from WhiteAfrican on Vimeo.

Just to get a feel for the projects and people at Maker Faire Africa in Lagos this year, I put together this video with pictures from my phone. I have some more images up on Flickr.

I’m a motorcycle guy, so anytime you put a motor on a chassis with something less than four wheels, then I’m interested. The creation below is by a young man called “STA”, who’s got a lot of swagger and a double teardrop tattoo under his right eye. In many ways STA is a one-of-a-kind character, unlike anyone else I ran into in Lagos.

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Let’s put it this way, anyone who rides such an eye-catching bike without a license plate, and who has no worries of the cops hassling him because of it, is certainly cut from a different cloth. When stopped, STA simply points to the Nigerian flag flying on the front and explains that it’s all the license he needs. (I kid you not)

STA spent about 4 years in Holland where he was inspired by custom motorcycles and trikes (tricycles). When he came back to Nigeria he decided he could build his own here. STA International’s first bike is the long-forked trike.

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Due to using his own funds, it’s a little underpowered with only a 250cc engine and a 10 liter tank. STA scrounged around and found the different parts, and put it all together himself. All total, he spent 300,000 Naira ($1,600) on it.

The bike has some very comfortable seating, a nice big sound system, 4 big silencers in the rear and drink holders for both driver and passengers. He can carry two passengers in the back, and there’s room under the seats for a little storage.

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The bike is kickstarted, which I wasn’t expecting at first as I’m used to bikes this big having an electrical starter. Makes sense though, as this is a small engine bought off of a used engine reseller. The trike also has a reverse gear, which comes in handy when the bike is as long as this one is, for maneuvering out of difficult spaces.

STA and I hung out a bit over the last few days. He’s got a real passion for modding bikes, and his next big plans include an even bigger trike, though he hasn’t fully fleshed out the design yet. I showed him some of the cool, retro, modded designs on Bike Exif and we talked a while about what a custom bike for African cities might actually look like.

A urine powered generator

Possibly one of the more unexpected products at Maker Faire Africa this year in Lagos is a urine powered generator, created by four girls. The girls are Duro-Aina Adebola (14), Akindele Abiola (14), Faleke Oluwatoyin (14) and Bello Eniola (15).

1 Liter of urine gives you 6 hours of electricity.

The system works like this:

  • Urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which separates out the hydrogen.
  • The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder.
  • The gas cylinder pushes hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas.
  • This purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator.

Along the whole way there are one-way valves for security, but let’s be honest that this is something of an explosive device…

Sulaiman Famro is a cheerful, 65 year old engineer, and a master of branding. He built the prototype “Farmking” three years ago and claims he can save the country $1 billion a year, just in savings on starch importation.

The Farmking is a one-stop processing plant for cluster and farm-site processing of root crops and grains. It has a diesel powered engine that allows for remote processing, with power out connections for lighting so that it can work all night, if needed.

On one end you have 3 devices, for chipping, grating and milling. In the middle is the power plant, and in the rear is a large steel drum that can hold 50kgs of milled cassava, that uses a spin filter to process up to 2.5 tons of milled cassava into starch.

It’s used for processing of cassava, soya beans, maize, sweet potatoes, yam and many other roots and grains. One of the more interesting uses for it is the capture of starch. Apparently there is a huge amount of waste when the processing of cassava happens in the country right now, instead of being captured it is left to seep into the ground. An incredibly wasteful, manual process currently, Sulaiman is lobbying governors of different Nigerian states to get the Farmking into their areas.

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Sulaiman went to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for his undergrad, then on to the Polytechnic Institute of NYU for his masters, finishing in 1976. The Farmking is a project of his that he built on his nights and weekends, claiming that he likes best to work by himself when no one else is around to bother him. It cost approximately 2.5m Naira ($16,000) to buy one, and the prototype (seen here) was built using his own money.

With the first prototype being built 3 years ago, the Farmking has yet to sell one to any other customers. Herein lies the problem for not just Sulaiman, but for many engineering-based founders of organizations. They can be incredibly good at building systems and tools, but aren’t interested, nor do they have the know-how to sell and market their product. It’d be good to see Sulaiman partner with a business person, or company, to streamline the sales and marketing side of the business so that he can make this invention work.

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a 15 y/o Boys Hydraulic Toys in Nigeria from WhiteAfrican on Vimeo.

Odo Gerald is a quiet 15 year old boy who loves to make things. At Maker Faire Africa this year, you’ll find his table surrounded by all the other little boys whenever he flips the battery on. That’s because he’s got the coolest toys around by far, all manner of heavy equipment machines that operate by batter and hydraulics.

Hydraulic excavator and dumptruck, handmade in Nigeria by a 15 year old boy

Toys made: dump truck, back hoe, excavator and a helicopter.

Odo has 4 toys he’s made over the last 4 months. They’re made of painted plywood, syringes, wooden pieces, wire, water and small tubes along with a motorcycle battery to run it all. His next big project is to make a small helicopter that he can get off the ground.

There are a number of kids at this year’s Maker Faire Africa, and it’s a real treat to see what they’re coming up with. More on some of the other projects later.