A sample of many of the ‘makers’ found at Maker Faire Africa 2010, held last year in Nairobi.

Maker Faire Africa 2010 from Taylor Martyn on Vimeo.

Robert Mburu, winner of the Maker Faire Africa GE Mentorship Prize provides us with a day by day account of his visit to the GE Technology Centre in Bangalore, India:

Living the John F Welch Technology Centre Dream

Day 1
16 hours after I had left my home, the giant Boeing powered by a GE engine landed at the Bangalore airport on November 29 at 8am. This was followed by a 2 1/2 hour drive to the hotel, Clarion, a stone’s throw away from the phenomenal GE’s technology Centre in Bangalore.

At the main gate of the center, it was clear that I had arrived at the birthplace of
innovative technology. I was excited to start my journey.

After a brief introduction by Geetha, the administrative assistant at the Research
Center, I met the research guru, T. Asokan, a friendly and humble scientist.
He briefed me on what GE is and does. I learned that GE has research and
development facilities across the globe in Niskayuna, Munich, Shanghai and
Brazil. It also has a host of other manufacturing and assembly engineering
facilities in Memphis, Tenessee and Greenville in the US. Asokan told me that
GE’s technological expertise ranges from water purification, aviation technology,
rail systems to efficient energy technologies. It is also in capital and even owns
one of the leading media service providers.

I was taken around the different science labs by Adnan. He informed me
about the main research activities in the labs and briefed me on some of their
inventions and innovations, both completed and ongoing projects.

The projects were incredible, the scientists young and creative, and the facilities
world class. I started to understand why GE was voted amongst the best
companies in the world for over 7 times in 11 years.

Day 2
Day 2 would be the busiest day at the technology center and I was really excited to finally get to demonstrate my innovation to the brainstorming team.

Asokan picked me up at 8.30 am from the hotel and we kicked off the day with
a session on the process of innovation. Asokan took me through the whole
process: from the conceptualization of an idea, imagination, and actualization to
how to bring various factors into play in realizing an innovation. “When everyone is thinking the same, then no one is thinking”, said Asokan. He taught me how to look at problems as challenges that can be overcome and how to think ‘out of the box’. I got insights on how to identify problems and to imagine possible solutions.  I was inspired!

He had also prepared a presentation in which he showcased his own innovations. I was impressed by the amount of inventions he had developed and had help developing.

Afterwards, I had to chance to meet Ramanan, the Chief Financial Officer
at the technology center. He explained me how I could patent a product and
seek financial support from business partners or solicit for credit from banking
institutions.  I couldn’t wait to sit together with the brainstorming team. I briefed them on my invention, told them about the challenges I faced while making it and we had a creative brainstorming session on how to overcome these.

After lunch, I met a team of young scientists in the presence of Asokan and
told them about my innovation as well. I was also introduced to the Intellectual
Property experts, including Sukla Chandra, who gave me more insight in how to
get the right type of protection for a creation or invention.

In the evening, I was invited to the Chief Scientist’s house, where I got to see all
the 25 awards and trophies he had won over the years for his inventions. Later,
he took me to Bangalore city to have dinner with his lovely family. It was a great
day and I was looking forward to my 3rd day in India.

My Last Day
My day started early again. Asokan picked me up from the hotel at 8.30am and I met with Kavitha, the Comunications Specialist, for an interview. We talked about my background, hobbies, my inspirations and my inventions.

After, I joined a team of young scientists, who offered me guidance on how to
take my passion for technology and innovation to a next level, and gave me tips
on how to approach some international universities for a scholarship and other
online studies.  In the afternoon, I was very lucky to be able sit with some of the leaders at the research center, including Raj, the Human Resources leader. We talked about future action plans and we wrapped up the day.

When it was time for me to say goodbye, Asokan gave me a souvenir that I will treasure forever, a signed photograph of the Global Research Center at Bangalore.  I could only conclude by saying that it was an incredible experience!

Read more about Robert’s Maker Faire Africa display here
Follow his blog here
Learn more about the individual Maker Faire Africa makers here.

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Steve Song is founder of VillageTelco, based in South Africa and he is one of the makers at Makers Faire 2010.

A village telco is a community telephone network. It is based on a suite of open source applications that enable entrepreneurs to set up and operate a telephone service in a specific area or supporting the needs of a specific community [1].  The first village telco has been established by Dabba at Orange Farm, a township near Johannesburg, South Africa. Users can make free local calls to other Dabba subscribers, as well as use pay-as-you-go vouchers to make calls to ‘phones on other networks [2].

Technically, a village telco consists of:

  • a mesh network made up of Wi-Fi mini-routers combined with an analogue telephone adaptor (aka ‘Mesh Potato’)
  • SIP phones
  • a pay-as-you-go billing and management system
  • a SIP/VOIP server
  • least cost routing equipment

Together, the components comprise an easy-to-use, standards-based, wireless, local, do-it-yourself, telephone company toolkit. The goal of a village telco is to make local telephony in developing countries inexpensive enough that it is virtually free. This has become possible, thanks to advances in open source telephony software and the dramatic decrease in the cost of wireless broadband technology.

At Maker Faire Africa 2010 Joy Tang and I interviewed Norbert Okec from Uganda on his prototype of a street light system.

In Design Observer Meena Kadri Interviews Emeka Okafor about Maker Faire Africa:

Meena Kadri
Maker Faire Africa is dubbed a celebration of African ingenuity, innovation and invention. What is the nature of the celebration?

Emeka Okafor
Many DIY-types — designers, inventors, hackers and tinkerers — in Africa work in isolation, so part of the celebration is about bringing them together to enhance, cross-pollinate and provide insights into the wider impact of their innovations on society. Taking the focus away from extractive ventures, we instead focus on those that are doing, making and producing. Globally there is a re-examination of manufacturing, production and design that is moving past the classical industrial sense and pointing to more distributed forms of production. Moving beyond mere celebration, there is also an interest in the interchange between these emerging global dynamics and local inspiration in Africa. This speaks to a far-reaching conversation in which the questions are posed: “How do we regain our creativity? How do we redefine what we mean by a society that is advanced?”

More here

The lists of people looking for matches is now up on the site, HERE, Sorry to all that it took a little while. Please browse the lists, especially  – but not only  – those from Ghana and see if you ‘match’ with someone there.

Match a Maker is a great way of  helping each other, you can offer someone advice on design or technologies for example and perhaps gain advice or help on funding or mentorship. There are so many ways to ‘match’

At the live event in Ghana,  lots of matches were made, for example: a man working on biocarburant found a mentor to further develop his business model, an inventor needing AutoCad skills was linked with the FabLab in Ghana, a shea butter maker was linked with a fabricator for a new machine to do same, a local children’s community organisation was linked to FM radio sender makers and  a Ugandan man was linked to a mentor for developing his bicycle driven medical care service.

Now we want to continue this momentum online. So see if you can help ‘match’ people to take inventing and making to the next step.
We are also working on a fully fledged platform to support the same types of matching but then globally. We envisage liking this to a ‘Whuffie‘ type approach to reward people who match others. You can help us design and build this full platform, if you have suggestion are are willing to volunteer time to get this platform up,  running and connected please mail us

Patrica Temma Bio and friend - Emer's match @makerfairafrica

Patrica Temma Bio and friend - Emer's match @makerfairafrica