It was on a hot and humid Friday afternoon of February 26, 2016 when Makerere University School of Public Health Resilient Africa Network (RAN) held the 8th Edition of the RAN Monthly Innovation Garage. This was one of those unique sessions where both English and Luganda (Local language in the central part of Uganda) were used to clearly and effectively communicate. The hands-on engagement which attracted 40 participants happened in the community at the Innovation Consortium Limited premises in Bweyogerere, one of the suburbs outside the Kampala business center in Uganda. Among the Garage participants were three of the RAN Resilience Innovation Lab (RI Lab) Innovation Officers including West Africa RI Lab, Horn of Africa RI Lab and Southern Africa RI Lab. It was a rich knowledge creation and sharing session bringing together students, innovators, faculty, RAN Staff, the Innovation Consortium Limited team, some end users and the community who all joined in radical group work directed towards inventing game changing solutions. It is in such sessions where RAN’s approaches of co-creation, brainstorming and prototyping among others are realized for solutions through innovation. The Garage sessions are guided by the theme; “Catalyzing Engineering Solutions”.

During the Garage, participants shared  feedback on two prototypes that had been presented and discussed in last month’s Innovation Garage (7th edition).

The Pedal tap which is an improved design of the already existing tap model with a more hygienic turning on mechanism enables users not to touch the tap on opening and closing for water flow while washing their hands.  All works on the Pedal Tap is directed towards promoting hygiene and preventing easy spread of contagious diseases like Ebola, cholera etc. The Team behind this innovation currently has a working prototype and is moving on to carry out mini pilots in one of Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) Public Washrooms. The other project discussed is the Hay/Silage machine, a project designed to enable farmers manufacture food for their animals using silage from maize. It was exciting to note that this machine has already hit the market as one was sold off to a consumer/farmer.

In addition to the above, 3 new projects were presented to the Garage participants;

  • Byuuma App, a mobile application to link Artisans to potential clients. It is designed to be a virtual market where people in-need of Artisans’ products can search and access the directory of registered sellers and products.
  • Ebola Bed/Chair, an innovation that provides a cost effective solution for low and medium income countries for the need for better management of uncontrollable diarrhea stool and vomitus among patients suffering from cholera and ebola among  others. This innovation is a modification of the existing cholera bed (with a hole almost in the middle of the bed and bucket underneath).  It is designed to prevent patients, care takers, medical workers and cleaners from getting into contact with the waste which can likely expose them too to the infection.
  • Kampala Food Service, a project aiming to introduce a portable food serving unit that eliminates the disadvantages associated with the current methods including contamination while offering some luxuries like product display and space maximization for street food vendors.

All these innovators had been working hard behind the scenes and appreciated the opportunity to seek for further support from the Innovation Garage participants. The active sharing of all the Garage participants clearly brought out critical opinions about the projects, ideas, prototypes and innovations. In attendance and active participation also were some local fabricators, end users and artisans who freely shared what they felt about each proposed solution. One innovator said “Although I had heard about the Innovation Garage from my classmate, I had never attended one. This is a rich initiative and an innovation in itself, now I know that I must carry out a Needfinding on the possible end users before further developing the app. In this way, I will get the real end users views to inform further development of my innovation and their buy in for acceptability and sustainability of the innovation. Thank you RAN”.

This event (held every last Friday of the Month) is open to multi-disciplinary teams , students, faculty and the communities at large because at RAN, we realize and appreciate that each discipline contributes significantly to the quality and development process of the Innovation.

The Innovation Garage at RAN is a great platform to support home grown engineering solutions and it is through such sessions that RAN joins in to support local solutions directed towards transcending nations. It is implemented in partnership with the Innovation Consortium Limited and all participants would like to see technologies developed in Africa being launched on the global market. Prof. George Mondo Kagonyera, Makerere University’s former Chancellor always emphasized that “We the Africans are the best developers and source of solutions to address African community’s most pressing challenges because we live in, with and understand these challenges better. Let us not wait for someone else to provide these solutions”.

Even towards the end of this Garage session, several participants were still engrossed in the same, generating additional ideas to further inform the innovation process. Bayron Ssemalago, Lead at the Innovation Consortium Limited in his closing remarks thanked all for the fruitful discussions saying, “Thank you participants for joining in this Innovation Garage here at the Consortium, such commitment and support means a lot to us the innovators, students, the community and end users too. We look forward to the next session in the Fabrication Lab so that we can show off real innovative prototypes immediately after the session”.

Join us in the next Innovation Garage on Friday March 25, 2016 starting exactly 4:00 pm EAT and be part of the team innovating real solutions to address community’s most pressing challenges that present as shocks and stresses in the form of disasters. Details are shared on www.ranlab.org, Facebook-Resilient Africa Network and Twitter-@AfricaResilient.

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