Our Students’ Stories

Hundreds of students in Sierra Leone, Kenya, and South Africa have participated in GMin’s programs over the past five years. Their remarkable stories continue to inspire others to create a culture of innovation in their communities. Teams of young innovators like Kelvin Doe from Sierra Leone, Nicola Jacobs from South Africa, and Sophia Seketo from Kenya identify problems in their communities and develop prototypes that aim to solve them. The following are some of the inspiring stories of students who, along with their teams, set out to create impactful change in their communities, by developing innovative solutions.



Tom Osborn

My name is Tom Osborn. I noticed that lack of clean, healthy and green fuel for Kenyan households led to numerous issues including deforestation, high cases of respiratory illnesses and large emissions of carbon (IV) oxide into the atmosphere. My team and I utilized unused agricultural wastes like maize stalks, coffee husks, bagasse and sawdust to provide green charcoal briquettes as an alternative to wood charcoal. After high school, I decided to defer college for two years to commit to GreenChar. I am now a 2015 Forbes 30 under 30 for Social Entrepreneurship, youngest Echoing Green Fellow, and an award-winning Anzisha Prize Fellow. I have appeared on CNBC Africa, CNN, KTN and other TV/news sources and writes about social enterprises and climate change for the Huffington Post.

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Tracy Wankio

My name is Tracy Wankio. I am the co-founder of Wild A Team. Since my final year in high school in 2013, my team and I have been dedicating to the Wild. With the mentorship and support from GMin, we decided to build a Passive Infrared Surveillance System for game reserves against poaching. In this way, we are not only conserving the wild with our voices but also with technology. The InChallenge program not only gave me the skills I needed for my project but also the skills I needed for my personal growth. Before this experience, I was average but I believe I am on my way to excellence. Currently, I am studying Landscape Architecture at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. I was recently invited to the We Are Family Foundation‘s Three Dot Dash’s 2016 Global Teen Leaders Program in New York. I am also a tech writer for The African Exponent, a digital media platform aimed at changing people’s perception of Africa.

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Mercy Sigey

My name is Mercy Sigey. Kenya is home to a variety of wild life species, one of them being two of the last Southern white rhinos in the world. I realized the increasing rate of wildlife poaching in my country which was devastating. My team and I decided the solution to this problem was to build a device that would sense human motion using infrared and therefore detect intruders in the game reserves. The device would then send the feed to the main computer and the administration would act on the alert before any animal was killed. The InChallenge was a wonderful experience. It was an eye opener to what the world has to offer and I learnt that change begins with you. I am currently a student at Strathmore University studying Financial Economics. I was a speaker at the 2014 Social Good Summit and 2014 MakerCon New York. My team and I have been featured on Discovery +254, a television program aired on NTV. 

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Leroy Mwasaru

My name is Leroy Mwasaru. I developed a Human Waste Bioreactor to combat sewage disposal in my boarding school. We have a working prototype currently being used by the school, all in a bid to offer a renewable source of energy and save the forest cover , which is being used as a primary source of fuel. I am now working to design our pioneer effecient separating toilet. I have since implemented the project in our local community in rural Kenya. My team and I are also working to commercialize the project in learning institutions and prisons where sewage disposal is often a biting problem. I was invited to speak at the 2014 Techonomy Conference in California. I’ve had my innovation featured by CNN, Fast CompanyGrist and local dailies. I also talked about my innovation during CCTV America’s live TV interview. My experience at GMin’s InChallenge program has been an eye-opener, yet still given me a three dimensional view and approach towards innovation as a youth. Support and mentorship were part and parcel of my journey in GMin. Working with innovators and mentors from widely diverse backgrounds equipped with adaptability and humility. My word to those considering applying is to take up the responsibility boldly in turning their ideas into solutions for their respective local communities and remember that Africa possesses a huge scope yet to be harnessed by us, the youth to make Africa a better place for all of us. Innovation= Idea + Leader + Team + Plan. 

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Jasonta Coker

My name is Jasonta Coker. I saw the use of charcoal as a problem to most households in Sierra Leone and therefore proposed an eco-friendly mechanism of biomass briquette as a substitute for charcoal. Using waste like sawdust, left over crops, used tires, livestock manure, and papers, I began to experiment manufacturing eco-friendly charcoal briquettes to provide an alternative fuel for cooking that is more affordable and easily accessible for all. I also realized that her charcoal briquettes had the potential to discourage deforestation and remove the waste in the community, thereby conserving the environment. I was a runners up at the 2015 UNDP Social Good Summit Innovation Award and showcased my briquettes at 2015 UNICEF Innovation Summit. The InChallenge encouraged me to become a problem solver as I was inspired by this competition to be a solution seeker for my environment and since then I have grown into a person who wants to always make positive changes in Sierra Leone. It has changed my life in a positive way and I have learned a lot in the process.  To those who are considering applying for the InChallenge, my advice is you should work hard to keep your dreams alive. Always believe in yourself and never let your dreams die.

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Luizer Mburu

My name is Luizer Mburu. Three of my schoolmates and I wanted to improve the waste disposal system at the fruit and vegetable market that neighboured our school. In this way, we would consequently eliminate the smell that came with landfills of organic waste as well as improve the general hygienic condition of the market. We had the idea of building an underground compost pit which would decompose with the help of red worms and create organic manure which we can sell to the farmers around our school. The revenue will sustain the collection of waste and the purchase of more worms and packaging bags. Following graduation from my secondary school, I volunteered with GMin where I promoted the InChallenge in other secondary schools around my neighbourhood. This allowed me to meet students who had the passion to improve their communities as well and heads of schools who were enthusiastic to see young people taking action. In addition, I also got to expand my communication network to mentors who I am still in touch with. I am now a second year student at the United World College Robert Bosch College in Freiburg, Germany. To those applying to InChallenge in the future, I believe all that is required is a commitment to community development and a passion for team work.

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Mohamed Harding

My name is Mohamed S Harding. In 2013, I taught myself how to build a sophisticated programmable autonomous robot with nothing but junk which landed me multiple invitations through Global Minimum to demo my prototypes at Google’s 2013 SciFoo Camp in California, The New School’s 2013 Interaction Design and Children Conference in New York, 2014 Maker Fare Africa in Johannesburg and Ghana’s popular MISE Math and Research Summer Program. With further seed funding and mentorship from GMin, I was able to establish a research project which was centered on designing a portable windmill with the aim of tackling the electricity problem faced by underprivileged homes in Sierra Leone. The prototype was featured in a documentary by Mazda Rebels. I’m currently a final year student at the prestigious African Leadership Academy, South Africa with focuses in entrepreneurial leadership and computer science. My activities in the academy includes interests related to research in product conceptualization, design and fabrication, Co-Founder, Chief Product & Innovation Officer of BEAM Holdings, an R&D student enterprise currently being incubated within the walls of the Academy. My summer activities includes co-facilitating the Academy’s summer entrepreneurship camp in Ghana called BUILD-in-a box, and start-up developments in Freetown.

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Mohamed Bangura

My name is Mohamed Bangura. I came in contact with GMin via the InChallenge competition. Before this time, I have engaged in making without any recognition. After their outreach team made a presentation at my school, I was inspired to be a part. Moreover, when my team was selected to be part of the finalists, it boosted my aspiration to be an engineer. I built a manually operated grinding and sharpening machine that allowed craftsman in my community to use low cost resources to do their work. This competition refined my mentality to always be at the creating-solution side of life. My innovation was featured in UNICEF State of the World’s Children 2015. I was recently accepted to African Leadership Unleashed (ALU) and joining the inaugural class from January 2016. My message to those who are considering applying to InChallenge is that they should not only see it as a competition rather they should see it as an opportunity to give back to their community. Your community relies on you to solve the problems affecting it. Make use of this the platform created and be the change.

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Luthando Dyasi

My name is Luthando Dyasi. I realized that the key barrier preventing people in Khayelitsha from attending university was a lack of awareness about university life and the complicated application process. My team and I developed a mobile app called GoVarsity, a platform that provides mentorship on how to apply to University, and information on career paths and subject choices. I completed a 9-month incubator program at RLabs where I launched my app. The app has already attracted few users. I am now studying Computer Science at Cape Peninsula University of Technology and an intern at RLabs where I am tutoring coding to young people with startups.

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Sophia Seketo

My name is Sophia Seketo. I noticed that landfills were not made to break down organic waste so when all of the organic waste is put in landfills, it creates an immense amount of greenhouse gasses. Fertilizers are also very expensive and chemical fertilizers can be very harmful to the environment. My team and I therefore built a community composting bin where everyone in the neighborhood can bring their organic waste. The composting bin creates organic fertilizer which can be sold back to the community much cheaper than traditional, chemical fertilizers. I was recently accepted to African Leadership Unleashed (ALU) and will be joining the first inaugural class from January 2016.

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Emmah Karanja

My name is Emmah Karanja. My project involves integrating a thin film solar cell onto an iron sheet. Corrugated iron sheets are the most common roofing material in Kenya for low-income households. In Kenya, students are greatly affected by power blackouts in our school and in our country and my team and I decided to come up with an alternative energy source to light our school and for the public. We aim to make an iron sheet that is wholly covered by the solar cells, a solar powered iron sheet, lighting the world a panel at a time.

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Kelvin Doe

My name is Kelvin Doe. I realized that there was no good way for people to share information and ideas. Everyone in my home town, Dwozark, had a radio but the stations they picked up didn’t broadcast local news and events happening in their community. I therefore built a FM Radio Station where I can play music and broadcasts news under the name “DJ Focus”. I am now the youngest person to participate in the “Visiting Practitioner’s Program” at MIT, and my work has been featured on TEDxTeensCNNNBC News, and The Huffington Post.

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Nicola Jacobs

My name is Nicola Jacobs. I noticed that unclear signage in informal settlements has hindered emergency services, particularly at night. Emergency personnel struggle to find people in informal settlements and residents of informal settlements struggle to find emergency services. My team and I created luminescent boards that make clear signage on the streets and houses of informal settlements. Navigations of emergency services are improved by a link to a Google Earth database that works in conjunction with Lumo Boardz. My innovation was featured in UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2015.

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Brima Bangura

My name is Brima Manso Bangura. I noticed that electricity was a major need in my community. Students normally use candles to study at night and those candles disturb their eyes because of the flames. Business people often lose their customers because there is no electricity to charge their phones. The generators at night produce thick carbon-monoxide smoke that causes premature deaths. I therefore applied to the InChallenge program where I built a human powered bicycle generator that does not emit smoke and noise. It gave a current of 220 volts which was used to turn on any AC appliance of choice. My generator was powered by peddling for a short time, and produced clean and lasting current. Through the InChallenge program, I realized that working in teams brings together people who share similar interests and ideas and who challenge our own thinking. I am now a student at the African Leadership Academy (ALA) and one of the facilitators of Build-in-a-Box Camp, an entrepreneurship and leadership camp. I was able to access all of these opportunities because of GMin’s help. My word of advice for those applying to the InChallenge program is that you need to be proactive, think beyond your thinking abilities and focus on what you are passionate about. Through this, you will have a long lasting skills that you will never find in other places. GMin’s InChallenge program will introduce you to many external opportunities that you might not find anywhere and you will never regret. 

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Hassan Deadewai Swaray

My name is Hassan Deadewai Swaray. When I first saw a boy who used the solar streetlight to study, I became concerned about the thievery and the high rate of teenage pregnancy among the girls. I therefore decided to make a portable and accessible solar kit embedded in a sardine tin on which a single lead is attached. The solar is connected to a battery pack, which uses rechargeable or non-rechargeable batteries. The batteries provide the energy to light the lead at night. During the Ebola crisis, I also made an anti-stigmatization film that raised awareness of survivors who were rejected by their community members. The InChallenge has completely changed my perception about innovation, and has actually made me a leader and a problem solver. I used to think the Government is responsible for solving any problem, but I now realize that if there is a pressing problem in my community, I need to be involved in trying to find a solution to it. I can now find solutions to any pressing problem I notice in my community. As for those who want to apply, remember it is just a first step you are taking to make a change in your community. You also need not give up. Always develop the spirit to rise again whenever you fall. And you should also remember to work in a team as it will help a lot.

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Kadija Daramy

My name is Kadija Daramy. I became concerned about the prevalence of accidents and other problems associated with fetching water from wells in my community, especially for children. My team and I built an electric hoist system which could be used to fetch water from wells. My innovation was featured in Mazda Rebels Campaign and WaterAid’s 2016 sH2Orts film competition.

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Vandy Amos Saati

My name is Vandy Amos Saati from the Prince of Wales School. I was a 2013 InChallenge finalist in Sierra Leone. My team and I identified the intermittent power supply in our school and the Kingdom community. We therefore decided to solve the problem by harnessing the wind around our school compound using a windmill device. The device was intended to power our school’s computer lab and the Kingdom community thereby guaranteeing a constant and equal access to electricity. Today I also spearhead a peer group to lead the outreach campaign through an innovation club I confounded with other alums of InChallenge. In addition, I built a mini electronic lab, which engages youths in Sierra Leone about the importance of education and innovations. My innovation was featured at the 2015 UNICEF Global Innovations for Children & Youth Summit in Helsinki and the Voice of Youth blog. The InChallenge made me more concerned about solving community problems by using local materials. For those who are considering applying to InChallenge, they must always think of solving problems that will benefit not only themselves but also their community and their country. 

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Sinethemba Makoma

My name is Sinethemba Makoma. There is a huge gap between high schools and universities in South Africa. High school learners are not exposed to university environment. As a result, learners make misinformed decisions about universities, leading to drop out and course change. My teammate and I developed GoVarsity, a mobile web application that serves as a bridge between universities and high schools by offering a clear, precise, and filtered information about university environment to high school learners. It is an open platform for university students to share their experiences and encourage one another about the courses they are pursuing. The solution ultimately equips the youth to make informed decisions about their future. The InChallenge was an experience of a lifetime. The program has taught me a lot about innovation and has created a lot of opportunities and connections for me, henceforth I am still progressing with my project that I innovated in 2013. To those who wish to partake in the InChallenge, I urge you not to hesitate. This is the turning point of an aspired innovator.

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Sahr Victor Kebbie

My name is Sahr Victor Kebbie. I realized that most communities all across Sierra Leone do not have electricity even in the cities. The intermittent power supply is a huge problem. My team and I identified this problem and proposed a project that will address the problem. We built a rechargeable solar kit embedded on a backpack, which gets energy from the sun to the solar panel. The energy stored in the solar panel is transmitted to the circuit board which in turn sends energy to the battery. The same circuit board has different outlets which allow the discharge of energy to other devices. One can use it to charge electronic devices and also use it at night to study. The InChallenge program was a great experience being paired with professional mentors, to learn how to work as entrepreneurs. I also learned knowledge application, team building, innovative thinking and large scale change. The InChallenge inspired me to become a problem solver in solving challenging problems faced by my community. For those considering to apply, my advice is always try to be a positive thinker and a problem solver in your various communities and dedicate yourself to solving challenging issues faced by your respective communities.  

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Adama Fofanah

My name is Adama Fofanah. In my hometown in Kabala, their is little access to safe drinking water, and cholera is a threat to the lives of the people. I realized that we teenagers had the power to do something about the deadly disease. I therefore applied to InChallenge and led a team of young teenagers to propose a solution. We fenced the wells to be secure from domestic animals, chlorinated and rehabilitated the wells and educated my community about how vital it is to fight against cholera. We also provided tip taps in order for my community to practice frequent hand washing. My experience with InChallenge made me believe that no matter the age, gender or locality, nothing will ever stop us from solving problems around us. How could I ever have imagined that today, despite where I am, I can still solve community problems affecting my people. The change that I took upon myself by solving problems has helped me build confidence in myself. Now people see me as a role model in my community.  

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gminStudents’ Stories