We distil water, hatch eggs, bake bread with power from the sun — Five secondary school students
The young inventors
Some students of Government College (Day Wing – Senior), Funtua, Katsina State are being celebrated after they innovated a solar thermal collector system.
The students, five of them, namely, Zaharaddini Suleiman, Ahmad Saidu, Mustapha Kabiru, Shuaibu Yusuf and Suleiman Yusuf, carried out the innovation under the supervision of their school’s Jet Patron, Malam Yazid Ahmad Rafindadi.
According to the innovators, the thermal collector system has the capacity to warm water, produce distilled water, hatch eggs, dry vegetables and raise the temperature of bread dough to speed up the baking process among others.
The device is targeted at reducing the use of electricity and other sources of power generated from fossil fuel and firewood and consequently curb deforestation, desertification and the effects of climate change.
The project appears timely given the fact that deforestation and desertification or desert encroachment, according to experts, have exposed the world to the dangers of climate change.
A statement from Katsina State Ministry of Education, Zonal Education Quality Assurance, Funtua, shedding light on the project, said: “Solar radiation is a blessing with the advent of today’s technology. The multifunctional system was developed to warm water, produce distilled water, hatch eggs, dry vegetables and raise the temperature of bread dough to speed fermentation for baking processes, so that the life of people living in Sahel Savannah, and desert areas will be easier and convenient.
This by extension will go a long way in curtailing incidences of deforestation and in turn avert desert encroachment”.
The statement continued, “Residential warm water, distilled water, incubator, dryer use to represent a large proportion of residential energy used.
The residential energy consumption accounts for approximately one-third of the total energy consumption. This offers many benefits in terms of increasing market share and reducing the demand at generation level in an increasingly competitive environment”.
Not surprisingly, the project is winning laurels. It emerged the winner of the contest for Outstanding Innovation in Solar Energy held at the Africa University Science and Technology, Abuja on November 13, 2017.
A statement by the Katsina State Commissioner for Education, Prof. Halimatu Sa’adiya Idris, through her PRO, Salisu Kerau, said the project emerged the national champion in the competition while Imo and Benue States took the 2nd and 3rd positions respectively.
Idris congratulated Governor Aminu Bello Masari for his decision to choose education as his number one priority, saying the move had started to yield positive results.
Meanwhile, after winning the national prize, the solar thermal collector system is billed for the International Science and Technology Fair scheduled to hold in Tunisia in March, 2018.
The leader of the students behind the device, Zaharaddini Suleiman, spoke to Sunday Vanguard. According to him, the goal was to make life worth living in the Sahel region and desert areas by curtailing incidences of deforestation and in turn avert desert encroachment.
The end result, Zaharaddini said, “is that people are likely to stop migrating from rural areas to urban centres in because of social amenities. “Distilled water is scarce in rural areas. With this system, the problem of distilled water in rural areas has been solved because no rural dweller desiring good drinking water will think of relocating to the urban centre anymore.
“The device can be used to boil water. For instance, in boarding schools where students are not allowed to use electricity for water heater, that problem has been addressed.
“In the usage of the device for the hatching eggs in rural areas, a Guinea fowl can lay about 100 eggs and if you are familiar with how given fowl can hatch such a number of eggs. This device is designed to hatch large numbers of eggs as in the case of the guinea fowl.
“How does this happen? The device has a thermal storage which conserves solar energy during the day. In the night, all you need do is to remove the foam inside and the concrete that has conserved heat begins to hatch eggs”.
Speaking on the items used to make the device, he said, “They include two glass plates, copper pipe, wood, black paint (black color is a good absorber of heat according to the Newton’s principle of heat transfer) while the heating space is made from plywood, foil paper and temperature sensor (the sensor detects the temperature within compartment so that the temperature will not exceed 37.5°C). In case of night, there is a tunnel to channel part of the heat that has been collected in the day time using concrete as storage of the heat and we have fans in the system to stabilize the temperature in the compartment”.
The school Principal, Alhaji Umar Marafa, while speaking on the project, said it was designed to cater especially for the people in the rural areas.
He cited the case of his school where the device is now in use. “Here in our school, we used to have the problem of distilled water whenever we had to do practical especially during chemistry classes and we would have to travel to Malumfashi in search of the water. This problem has inevitably been solved with the coming of the solar thermal collector system”.
On the efficacy of the device, Marafa said, “We tested and evaluated the project several times before taking it for competitions.
“First, we took the project to Katsina (for a competition) and later to the North-West Zone in Sokoto where we emerged winner. Seven states participated in the Sokoto event and we emerged winner. “That qualified us to contest at the national level. All the competitions were organized by the Solar Energy Society of Nigeria and sponsored by Oxfam.
“ For winning the first prize, we got a certificate of attendance, a medal and a cheque for three hundred thousand naira. We have been able to achieve this out of hard work, commitment and the efficiency of the state government, the education resource centre and the school’s Jet Patron”.
The principal disclosed that the students from the school, before latest innovation, had produced what he described as Water Sport Bicycle.
“We designed and constructed Water Sport Bicycle in 2015. It floats on water, it doesn’t sink; it will carry you irrespective of your size”, he said.
“We also tested and evaluated the project several times before taking it to the School Science and Technological Fair that took place in Ekiti State in 2015. The project generated a lot of comments in appreciation of the technology used to make the project.
“After the Ekiti event, we received an invitation to take the project to Pennsylvania, United States. The state government sponsored our students on the trip to Pennsylvania where we presented the project and we were selected the third best. Over 70 countries attended the competition.
“We took the same project to Tunisia where we also took the third position and got prizes ranging from text books to Laptop computers.
“When we came back, we challenged the school Jet Patron to start preparing for another project. And this time around, the school produced a multipurpose solar thermal collector. We are not relenting or stopping at that as we are planning to invent something beneficial to agriculture engineering.
“As someone who read agricultural science at the NCE level and later proceeded for my degree programme in education administration and planning, we should invent something that can be used in agriculture engineering. That is our next target. I can assure you that Insha Allah we will do everything we can to produce something that will help along that line.
“ I have challenged those in the agriculture science department and the head, though he read animal husbandry. We are working something out”.
The school’s Jet Patron, Rafindadi, corroborated the principal’s statement that the project was not the first to be embarked upon by the school but this brought them to limelight.
According to him, the project was borne out of the abundance of sun in the area and the need to tap into it to develop a source of energy.
“Looking at the abundance of sun in this area, we felt could take advantage to construct the project”, Rafindadi, who is a physics teacher in the school, said.
“We have other projects outside of the latest we did. The solar thermal collector system is not the first. We constructed Water Sport Bicycle in 2015. It was designed to float on water; it doesn’t sink and will carry you irrespective of your size”.
When asked how much was spent to make the solar thermal collector system, he said, “It costs N50, 000 only and takes a week (6 to 7 days) to construct”.
A climate change expert, who didn’t want his name in print, said the project was commendable, saying government should promote it with a view to making it available for use in commercial quantity by Nigerians.
According to him, the device has the potential to stem the indiscriminate cutting down of trees for cooking especially by rural dwellers.
“Renewable energy is an area that is going to help the country because we have in some areas up to almost 12 hours of sunshine every day. But the issue we have is making the device affordable” he said.
“The project must take into cognizance cost effectiveness and sustainability particularly since the end users are the people in the rural areas, the poor farmer who are worst hit by climate change.
“ If these people are targeted and taken care of by the project, I guess it will go a long way to help the country. If not, the questions would be: Can they afford it? Can they maintain it? Is it sustainable?
“If the cost of producing a unit of the device is N50, 000, can the people (rural community) afford it? Even some cooking stoves designed for N15, 000 per unit, most of the rural dwellers cannot buy them.
“Interestingly, the project is a very good effort and commendable especially when it came from secondary school students. And I think the innovators can be linked with research institutes or possibly private investors, investment agencies; even banks can come in so that it can be mass produced for everybody to use.
“It needs to be refined. Maybe, they go to a polytechnic and see what has been done in that area and, from there, take it up. The bottom line is that their efforts are not wasted.
“What plans does government have to support it? Are we looking at a subsidized kind of arrangement?
“Even, emphasis should be placed on the energy aspect of it because if it is solar energy, it means that the rural people will have an efficient renewable energy solution. So they don’t need to be in the national grid, which means that they can do certain things at the village level using this product. “Nigeria has a big such market such that if we get it right, everybody will be happy. I’m sure that the program can collaborate with other programmes to market it.
“Since we are urging the people to stop the indiscriminate falling or cutting down of trees and so we should also promote the project providing alternative energy to the people in the rural communities”.
A Director with the Centre for Renewable Energy at Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University, (UMYU), Katsina State, Dr. Abdullahi Mati, said massive deployment of the solar thermal collector, among others, will replace firewood which has remained a major source of energy for domestic use.
“The major source of energy that is used for domestic cooking is firewood. So, the indiscriminate cutting of trees for that use has drastically affected the forest reserves. So, the tendency is, the more we use firewood, the more we deforest and the more we are prone to desertification which effect is causing climate change”, he said.
“So, the introduction of the solar thermal collector will replace firewood for many appliances, whether for cooking, drying and a lot of other things.
“In other words, the introduction of the solar thermal collector will help to reduce the use of firewood for those things because it is impacting on the climate.
“If there is massive deployment of the solar thermal cookers, solar thermal dryers and even oven for baking of bread and others, then the issue of climate change would be gradually reduced?”
The Solar Energy Society of Nigeria and organizers of the competition, which saw the project emerging the champion, urged the educational authorities in Katsina to liaise with the Technology Incubation Center for the further development of the project.
The society’s former Technical Secretary and now Financial Secretary, Engineer Ismail Rikoto, who spoke in a phone interview, said the centre is responsible for the building of such projects to the level of commercialization.
“The Technology Incubation Centre is responsible for that. So they should liaise with them to see if they can build the technology to the level of commercializing. This is because if you are looking for investors and you don’t have papers of certification of commercialization, you are nowhere.
“There was a representative from the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology present at the competition who said there was a presidential standing force that supports this kind of project. So, already they were told they will be given a form to fill to get a support and replicate the work.
“The last time we organized the event in Katsina, there was no prize at the state level because we used the Society’s resources to run everything. But if the state government can sponsor, then many people will benefit and then the winners can represent the state nationally or internationally”.
Rikoto continued, “The Society has been in existence for over 40 years. And every year, we organize conferences such as this to encourage students to develop interest in this field and other related areas particularly now that we are faced with the challenge of global warming in order to minimize the issue of climate change.
“The Solar Energy Society of Nigeria is a group of people working in the area of solar energy in universities, non-private sector, research institutes among others. We organize conferences annually. Part of the activities for last year brought about the five students who produced the solar thermal collector system emerging first position”.
A source in the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Suleiman Adamu Abubakar, who spoke with our correspondent on phone, said the project was a welcome development but investors and wealthy individuals, who were supposed to invest to replicate, finish and market the project, were not forthcoming.
“Even though the project is a good development, it needs a lot of improvement, finishing and marketing. We have so many of such projects. People outside are supposed to come in and invest in it. Government will help you to repackage”, Abubakar said.
“It is unfortunate, we don’t encourage ourselves in this country. We have so many projects like that. Private and wealthy individuals have to come in and invest in it, not government. That is why we have Public Private Partnership, (PPP). People from other countries come here to take projects and replicate in their own countries.
“If government has adopted the PPP model for such innovations, there is nothing it can do than to encourage you and give you the enabling atmosphere.
“We have the Presidential Standing Committee on invention and innovation. When they present whatever project, the committee will sit down and look at it. If it is worth it, it will get some funding. They can improve on what they have.
“I don’t know if they have got the form from the Presidential Standing Committee to enable them get funding so that they can improve on the finishing”.