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Four Kenyans battle it out for Sh52m hardware innovation prize

By James Wanzala | Published Wed, May 3rd 2017 at 10:01, Updated May 3rd 2017 at 10:03 GMT +3

Four Kenyans are among 10 African finalists in the running for a share of more than $500,000 (Sh52 million) in a mechanical engineering competition.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), which is the world’s largest organisation in the field of mechanical engineering, announced the finalists of the 2017 ASME Innovation Showcase (IShow) last week.

The showcase marks ASME’s 10th international competition for hardware-led social innovation. The African finalists, who include four innovators from Uganda, one from Ghana and one from Tanzania, will present their design prototypes on May 25 in Nairobi for a shot at the grand prize winnings.

The creations

Their innovations include a small vending machine for sanitary items like pads and diapers from Esther Chege,; a portable science lab that can fit in a bag from Charles Antipem; and a mobile phone-based fetal heart monitor that enables maternal health care givers to effectively serve pregnant mothers from Angeline Awiti Muga.

Roy Allela has developed a sign language-to-speech translation glove to address the language barrier between sign language users and the public, while Victor Shikoli’s GPS and Internet-enabled device can be plugged into water supply systems to monitor water use, quality and leakages using sensors, and send data to an online platform.

The African finalists are among 28 others who’ll compete regionally in India and the United States in the coming months. This year, ASME received more than 150 submissions.

A panel of judges that includes successful entrepreneurs, academics, and founders of venture-funded start-up companies will choose three hardware designs per region as grand prize winners.

The winners will share the Sh52 million in seed grants, technical assistance, design and engineering reviews and access to IShow’s partnership network.

“ASME originally created IShow three years ago after our research showed a tremendous lack of support for hardware innovators seeking to enter global markets and make a societal impact,” said Keith Roe, the society’s president.

“With this year’s entries among the most promising we’ve seen since IShow first launched, we’re confident they all have the potential to address some of the most vexing issues faced by humankind.”

The finalists’ pitches will outline the engineering design attributes of the prototypes and also include a discussion of plans for manufacturing, implementation, marketing and financing.



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