Revamped Automatic Handwashing Machine Unveiled

Tounsi (left) explains how the new modifications he developed with fellow student researchers work

An advanced version of the automatic solar-powered handwashing machine which is able to detect and alert relevant authorities of suspected cases of people with Covid-19 symptoms has been invented at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

The machine, a higher version of an earlier one fitted with censors that was able to dispense soap and water automatically without any physical contact, is able to send signals to alert relevant authorities for mitigation and urgent action within seconds.

The innovation is also able to track the flow of people through the recorded temperatures stored into a central database system that could be hosted on websites or servers depending on the users’ desire.

The machine developed by five postgraduate research students from the Pan African University Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI) hosted at the JKUAT has a sensor that is programmed to verify the temperatures of people who come to wash their hands at least twice before sending the alerts in order to avoid sending false data.

As the Cameroonian Electrical Engineering PhD student majoring in Power Systems, Willy Tounsi, says; “this combination of technology will make it easier to keep track of all recorded temperatures, traffic flow, and as such, business outlets will be able to measure the number of customers received per day.”

Tounsi further added that the new advanced hand washing unit is fitted with a temperature sensor which is coded to send an SMS to the relevant authorities in the event that the temperature of the individual is higher than normal.

He says the handwashing unit which can either be powered through solar or the use of a battery, has a well-illustrated pictorial that primary school children can easily follow.

The other researchers behind the project are Filston Rukerandanga, a PhD Electrical  Engineer (Telecommunication option) from Burundi, two Masters of Science students in Mechanical Engineering, Destine Mashava from Zimbabwe and Pauline Mwambe from Uganda, and Yves Jouontso from Cameroon (pursuing his Masters in Civil Engineering). They are supervised by Prof. George Nyakoe from JKUAT’s College of Engineering and Technology (COETEC).

Kamunyu and his team test their automatic hand washing machine at the Nakuru’s War Memorial Hospital

Meanwhile, three undergraduate students from JKUAT’s Nakuru Campus have also invented an automatic handwashing machine that is already in use at the Nakuru’s War Memorial Hospital.

Brian Ngugi Kamunyu, a fourth-year BSc Control and Instrumentation student, and Simon Kimani Muchiri, also a fourth-year BSc Analytical Chemistry student teamed up with Samuel Karanja Ng’ang’a, a BSc Industrial Biotechnology alumnus to come up with this innovation which uses an actuator to dispense the water and soap drawn from the bucket to the outlet.

Kamunyu says their system uses both batteries or electricity, adding that they came up with the innovation after seeing the need “to enable fellow Kenyans realize the efficacy of handwashing by facilitating them to adhere to the correct handwashing practices, especially during the COVID -19 pandemic as stipulated by the World Health Organization.”

The machine operates in four stages, it dispenses water for wetting the hands, followed by soap for lathering hands, and it later allows 20 seconds for thorough scrubbing of the hands before finally, dispensing running water to flow to cleanse the hands off the soap.

The system which can conveniently be used by the physically disabled, is also manually operated and economical, as it saves on the amount of water and soap used.

The team feels the project which utilized locally available materials to invent is proving to be useful to a wide spectrum of applications stretching the post-COVID-19 pandemic. These include; public facilities such as schools, hospitals, shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, among others.

Vice Chancellor Prof Victoria Wambui Ngumi while commenting on the students’ project, and others still in the pipeline said she was thrilled by the passion of innovative ideas exhibited by both faculty and students.

“It is refreshing to see how dedicated young men and women are searching for solutions that will aid in combating the pandemic and beyond. We are all in it and must fight to eradicate the scourge,” she said.

Dr. Ominde Fundi Calvine, the Chair, Department of Physics at JKUAT’s College of Pure and Applied Sciences (COPAS) said Kamunyu, an undergraduate student in his department has been so passionate about his project which has now become a reality as he had desired. He commended him and his team for coming up with such a brilliant contribution during this difficult time of the Coronavirus scourge.

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