College students innovate, design contamination free hand washing station

John Nderitu and his brother Joseph Gatiba are not your ordinary college students. As their peers continue to stay at home following the outbreak of coronavirus in the country, the two young men have been burning the mid night oil figuring out how they can contribute to efforts put in place to ease the effects of the virus and their efforts have borne fruit. They have been able to innovate and design a contamination free hand washing station. Since March the government confirmed more than 88,000 Covid-19 cases and more than 1,500 people have died.

The station is hands-free and just by pressing of the foot pedal, the user is able to dispense soap and clean water. The station also has a basin/ sink, a waste water disposal system and a serviettes dispenser.

The idea came about after they noticed that people were at risk of contracting the virus after washing their hands because they were using the same bar soap to wash their hands and closing the tap after use with the same clean hands. At the same time, some locally assembled hand washing stations were not durable and needed frequent maintenance.

Joseph Gatiba and John Nderitu demonstrate how the contamination free hand
washing station is used at their home in Ruiru, Kiambu county.

“After the first case of coronavirus was reported in March, the government ordered people to wash their hands with soap and running water among other measures. People placed jerry cans outside their houses and shops but we noticed they were sharing bar soaps to wash their hands.

At the same time, closing and opening tap water was also not hygienic because one must close the tap after washing hands which beats the essence of washing hands,” says Nderitu, a Kenya Technical Trainers College electrical engineering graduate at their home in Kwihota village along the Eastern By pass in Ruiru constituency, Kiambu County.

“Our research has shown that our new hand washing station design reduces the amount of water and soap per hand washing by half compared to other designs,” says Gatiba a student at Lions Institute of Technologies in Gilgil.

How it works

First and foremost, a person is required to press the soap pedal using the right foot placing his or her hands at the soap sprayer to automatically dispense the soap.

Rub your hands well for about 20 seconds. Then place your right foot on the second pedal and the water will automatically flow and therefore you rinse your hands. Lastly, pull serviettes from the serviettes dispenser and dry your hands.

The station is durable, portable and adaptable to multiple settings. “We have customized the hand washing station in that, it can be used in a variety of settings such as in hospitals, hotels and even schools. For those people who have a challenge of space, their concerns are also catered for because we can design the station to fit in the available space,” he says.

According to Gatiba, all the materials used to make the hand washing station are sourced locally. So far they have been able to sell more than 10 stations each in different parts of the country and the response is encouraging. Prices of the hand washing station differ with size.

Their major challenge, however, is lack of finances and marketing of the product. “We don’t have a source of income and therefore, our parents provide the money to buy the materials. They have also been instrumental in marketing the product too. We urge the government to support us by marketing and even buying the product for its institutions,” says Gatiba. The two hope to upscale production of the hand washing stations in future and create jobs for fellow youths.

Their father and mentor Bernard Mahiuha says the idea to innovate the hand washing station was borne out of boredom. “I am a contractor for lab equipment and after the schools were closed in March, we found ourselves spending most of the time at home doing nothing.  When they came up with the idea, I told them it’s possible and they can try. They have used much of the knowledge they gained in high school to come up with this station. And four months down the line, we have a product that is acceptable in the market,” he said.

He says the boys have been very cooperative and eager to learn and urged parents to support and guide their children when they want to try something new. “Whatever the children want to be or do, support them,” he says.

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