The Innovation Garage sessions reconvened on Friday April 28th , 2017, after a busy month of March that saw RAN host the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA PhD fellowship) PhD fellowship and the Resilience Community of Practice convening. The 18th Innovation Garage intended to make up for lost time and gave participants something different to look forward to.

The unconventional garage session, which was facilitated by the ‘Yiya Engineering Solutions’ team- a not-for-profit organization of qualified individuals in the fields of education, entrepreneurship and engineering and supported by RAN under the Resilience Innovation Challenge 4 Conflict (RIC4CONF) Grant, took participants back to the physics classroom to understand the role of different circuit components. Prior to this however, the garage goers were welcomed to the hands-on critical thinking session by the Innovation Garage President- Stephen Ssekanyo who also shared  a brief introduction to the monthly garage sessions and the role of the Innovation Consortium Limited in supporting the garages.

The Yiya team comprising of Samson Wambuzi, Marion Arecho and Denis Owac took center stage next and begun the session with an ice breaker that dually served as a brief introduction to the engineering design process (commonly referred to at RAN as the ‘Design Thinking’ Process). The 24 participants (and one 8-months old baby- can we please offer a round of applause for all the mothers that do it ALL!), who were placed into three groups were asked to arrange the following words into the correct steps for the ‘Engineering design process’:

  • ‘Investigate’, ‘Plan’, ‘Communicate’, ‘Test’, ‘Create’, ‘Identify’, ‘Brainstorm’ and ‘Improve’

This brain teaser was then followed by a short refresher course on the components of a circuit and their distinct roles. This time however, unlike previous high school physics lessons, the session on ‘electric circuits’ was brought to life with a hands-on session, where participants got to see the actual components and use them to build their own bicycle powered phone chargers.

“So often, when our phone chargers die (meaning run out of power or worse still get spoilt), we head to a shop to buy a replacement at an exorbitant price,” Samson shared. “Little do we know that the components used to build these chargers cost less than a few shillings,” he added before sharing about the possible benefits of a bicycle powered charger to a population like that in Uganda, where many people cannot afford electricity. Participants were then taught how to use connect the different components required on a circuit breadboard before they were given a chance to test out their battery powered phone chargers. ”It was an interesting hands-on session, offering rich learning from the very minimal and usual life experiences” shared Stephen Ssekannyo.

In closing the event, Natasha Kassami- RAN’s Engagement Officer thanked the participants for their dedication to the monthly garages. She further thanked the Yiya team for the time spared for this activity and for delivering an insightful and memorable innovation garage session.  ”RAN has a well-stocked fabrication lab and thus we hope to bring you many more practical garage sessions, in addition to showcasing innovations so that you can all begin developing prototypes for your own innovations at the comfort of your home” she concluded.

In sharing the lessons learnt from the session, one participant shared that he currently works in a phone repair shop and would apply the knowledge gained from the session in his day-to-day work. Another member thanked the Yiya team for the ‘Engineering 101’ class and for sharing this easily deployable technology with the group.

We are already counting down to the next interactive garage session scheduled Friday May 26, 2017 keeping all factors constant.  Read about the previous Garage session on