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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Emeka Okafor is a venture catalyst and entrepreneur. He lives in New York City. He is the Maker Faire Africa curator.

Emeka points out some very interesting facts on Maker Faire Africa’s contributions:

  • creates awareness for African innovation
  • helps build a “productive class” whose foundation is laid on building problem solving systems
  • celebrates the existing knowledge of individual African countries and connects it across the continent and abroad
  • building a community is a basis for business
  • African makers focus on things for which there seems to be an immediate need/market
  • the biggest market is the indigenous

Eric Hersman, one of the organizers of Makers Faire 2010, talks about his learnings from last year’s event and what MFA is planning for 2010.

After the first day I have to say that I love the spirit I have felt at the event. The same like last year … very vibrant community, expiriencing that they do have omething to give, to show and then – indeed – to celebrate!

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

In Kampala, Uganda, 3 engineers/IT experts had an idea to build a rugged computer kiosk from an oil drum – and along with a team of car mechanics they built a first prototype in February 2010, over the course of 3 days.

computer_drum_with_solar.jpg

Other prototypes have followed, and UNICEF, the government of Uganda, and NGO and private sector partners are preparing to roll out the first working models in the 2nd half of 2010 – at schools, youth centers, and other community access points. The goal for the community kiosk project is to create information access points for every village in Uganda, so that all citizens will have better access to critical health and educational material, as well as be able to access government services, view progress in development projects across the nation, and report on issues in their own communities.

The Digital Drum is coming to Maker Faire Africa 2010.