Backyard tinkering leads pair to sunny solution to hot morning tea

2013-10-18 00:00

YOUNG innovators from the impoverished Uxolophambili High School in Hammarsdale, outside Durban, aim to repeat last year’s KZN victory in the 2013 Hip2B² 3M Innovation Challenge Final.

Grade 10 pupils Mlekeleli Dlamini (18) and Mohamed Shezi (16) have designed a kettle with solar panels that draws energyfrom the sun to operate. They said this was their “techie solution” to the electricity problem in the community.

The duo are currently in Johannesburg where they are participating in a week of inventing, job shadowing and mentoring alongside finalists from the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Gauteng.

Mohamed, who intends becoming a chemical engineer, said their innovation was the answer for those families who boiled water on the fire. “It is very difficult to fetch water and collect wood from far-off when you are in the rush to leave for work or school in the morning,” he said.

He recalled that he was always “fixing” things. “I used to make bath basins out of old 20-litre containers for people who needed them.”

Dlamini believed their innovation should not be confined to their community. “Our kettle is easy to use and is another means of saving electricity and we have hopes to take it worldwide.”

Dlamini’s father, a former truck driver, was involved in a car accident and later lost his job. “My dad decided to fix people’s cars in order to get by, so helping him out on the job has taught me a lot.”

He added that much good came out of that unfortunate situation, as it cemented his love for mechanical engineering. “I use every chance I get to show my talents and I spend time with disciplined people.”

The pair said it took them only a month to complete their project. Should it be deemed the best when judging takes place on the weekend, they could return home with the title of “South Africa’s Top Young Innovators 2013”.

Global technology company 3M planning manager Robyn Coventry said it was their responsibility to give youth from disadvantaged backgrounds an equal chance at a successful future and strive to ignite that innovative spark that can help to get them there.

“We want our youth to know that even humble ideas can lead to extraordinary success,” she said.

Backed by the Department of Education, the challenge is in its second year, and is the brainchild of Hip2B², which promotes the study of maths, science and technology-related subjects.

Managing director Cathryn Payne said that this year’s entrants responded well to the brief of finding a practical solution to a challenge in their area.

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