AfriGadget: the story behind the stories.

What does it take, out there in the field, to get an AfriGadget story?

Well, this video that I took back in the summer of 2007 shows Hash (aka WhiteAfrican) hard at work getting the Africa’s Modular Machines piece that went up in AfriGadget last November. Yes, the sound quality and camera work are atrocious but sometimes, opportunity just presents itself.

I am happy to report that as you can see, he was busy bringing Firefox to the people as he did this.

The Bamboo Bike project

The Bamboo Bike, an endeavour that aims at building bicycles in a sustainable fashion using bamboo as the primary construction material, is a joint project run by Craig Calfree of Calfree Design, a high tech bicycle design firm based in California and The Earth Institute at Columbia University.

The bicycle is the primary mode of transport in Africa and it is used for everything from personal transportation to moving medicine and the sick to hospital. Sadly, the design used in most of Africa has not changed for the last 40 years to take into account the different ways in which the bicycle is used. In fact, most bikes in use in most of Africa today are based on a colonial British design tailored to individuals travelling short distances on smooth roads.

Bamboo Bicycle Project - Bike Assembly  Bamboo Bicycle Project - The Bamboo Bike

While making bike frames based on bamboo is not a new idea, most bamboo frame designs simply use bamboo for construction material in a traditional bike frame design. Leveraging the unique properties of bamboo such as its strength and flexibility to meet the specific needs of populations local to various parts of Africa is one of the primary rationale behind the Bamboo Bike project.

The team working on the Bamboo Bike project in the US, Ghana and Kenya among other locations have a interesting blog (last updated in the summer of 2007) that chronicles the struggles of the project team while on site in Africa.

Project gear including Bamboo Bikes and clothing is available on the Bamboo Bike and Calfree Design websites.

Bamboo Bicycle Project - A Ghanian Village Elder on the Bamboo bike  Craig Calfree and the Bamboo Bicycle Project

Mubarak Abdullahi’s home-made helicopter takes Nigeria’s Kano Plains by storm

Yahoo! News (among other sources) carries a story from October 21st about Mubarak Muhammad Abdullahi of the Kano Plains of Nigeria who has built a working helicopter over the last 8 months using scrap aluminum and parts from a Honda Civic, an old Toyota and from the remains of a crashed Boeing 747.

This inventor has had no formal training in flying and his helicopter has never flown higher than 7 feet of the ground. In an interview, he talks about how the machine works:

Mubarak Abdullahi’s home-made helicopter

“You start it, allow it to run for a minute or two and you then shift the accelerator forward and the propeller on top begins to spin. The further you shift the accelerator the faster it goes and once you reach 300 rmp you press the joystick and it takes off,”

Mubarak is ambitious however and has embarked on a new project to build a better helicopter that will be able to make 3 hour flights. He hopes to get support for his project from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and other Nigerian government bodies.

Mubarak Abdullahi’s home-made helicopter  Mubarak Abdullahi’s home-made helicopter

The knife-sharpening bicycle

Peter Kahugu of Banana Hill just outside Nairobi makes a living using his bicycle.

And no, he is not a professional cyclist.

AfriGadget reporter Afromusing and I had an opportunity to interview Peter who has modified his bicycle with a belt, a set of tensioning pulleys and a grinding stone to make it a knife-sharpening machine. By kicking the bike up onto its stand and engaging a gearing system, he is able to use “leg-horsepower” to drive a grinding wheel and sharpen knives while “on the move”.

Peter has been at this for 2 years now and he makes about Kshs 500 ( app. 10 US$) a day by riding his mobile workshop from client to client sharpening all their knives as he goes. The grinding stone he uses has lasted an astounding 2 years and he has had to replace his drive belt a couple of times but that is as simple as cutting up a long strip of rubber from an old car or bicycle tire inner tube.

Be sure to click though on the image for video on YouTube of the Peter and his bike in action.

The knife-sharpening bicycle

The SCORE multi-function stove, fridge and electricity generator

An all-in-one cooker, energy generator and fridge could soon be improving quality of life in developing countries, thanks to an international project launched this week.

According to a press release by Paul Riley, SCORE Project Director, the £2m Stove for Cooking, Refrigeration and Electricity (SCORE) project aims to work with rural communities in Africa and Asia, where access to power is limited, to develop a versatile domestic appliance powered by biomass that will significantly improve health and welfare.

The SCORE device, which is still in the concept stage and is shown in the picture below, will work through the conversion of biomass to sound energy for heating and cooling.

SCORE stove concept

This technology is far more efficient and less polluting than burning wood in an open fire, currently the primary cooking method of two billion people around the world. Dr Pullen(Research team leader) adds:
“Using this technology while ensuring that the device is relatively low-cost and can be produced using local materials and labour is one of the great challenges of this project. Thermoacoustic systems have always been expensive and high-tech – a great deal of the first stage of this project will be taken up with translating the technology into something that can easily be mass produced.”

The SCORE project website can be found here

( via Timbuktu Chronicles )