With zeal, Peter Mbiria has been developing fascinating robots from age 7.Coming from a humble background, Peter Mbiria dedicated his efforts to secure a place at an engineering school regardless of the disappointments of getting into university to pursue electrical engineering. Now, a final year student at Technical University undertaking electrical engineering course, he has gone against all odds to develop amazing robots that he hopes will help transform the engineering sector.
His passion, he recalls dates back to his childhood days, when his mother used to send him to the dairy farm to fetch milk which he say was a daunting task. At a tender age of 7 he made his first toy robot to help him carry milk from the dairy. In 2004 after completing his primary school education, he developed his first prototype vehicle to test his capabilities. From then on, his case has been of forward ever backward never as he has sprung out one innovations after another ever since.
‘I sourced out for the raw materials such as the gears and motors from electronic waste in Ngara. The wheels are however from a toy which i bought.’ he says when speaking of his current projects which consist of a semi-transforming vehicle, Music DNA and the wheel chair robots-projects which took him approximately six months to complete.
Looking on, I gain keen interest on how they operate. ‘The semi-transforming vehicle also referred to as ’linda nchi’ is a four wheel car and woks best on rough road terrain. It can be controlled manually by switching on the button at the side of the vehicle or electronically by connecting it to a power source. It has a remote control to steer the wheels,’ he says.
The music DNA system which had been remmiting colours at will during the interview is one of kind and easily attracts attention.”It has a designed circuitry which takes in music, subdivides it and gives out the output in varying levels of lighting. Also depending on the intensity of the music, it responds to any music bringing in different colour variations from light emitting diode (LED),” Peter explains of his innovation. “It is good for indoor or outdoor entertainment,’ he adds.
The two are not the only innovations in his latest efforts. In helping the physically challenged individuals, Peter came up with an improvised wheelchair to help with their free movement. ‘The wheel chair is a new development that I came up with as part of my final year project in college. No human assistance is needed since it has an automatic balance feature, it also has the ability to go up and down the stairs on whichever type of ground as the steering wheel is fully powered to help it move in front or backwards,’ he explain of his gadget. ‘The other characteristic is that it enables people with disabilities to stand up in whichever situation, for instance, cooking or even shopping,’ he says.
The robots can be used as tools for educating students on the basics of engineering in the mechanical or electrical departments. ‘Inadequate funds to source out for the raw materials and yet doing research in creating such inventions is expensive. For example, a microcontroller is an expensive and fragile tool and once broken the robots prototype can’t function. Also we need to have more mentors to guide us not only in theory practices but in practical applications too on how our skills can be utilised.’ he said.
With keen interest in reaching a wide range of people globally and accommodating the emerging industry , Peter says the prototype wheelchair robot is a bit expensive but the semi-transforming vehicle and the music DNA are quite affordable to those with interest in transport and entertainment industry.
With massive industry growth and different technologies being developed daily, the young student has began patenting his inventions with the help of his institution, Technical University of Kenya (TUK) and Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI). Apart from working on an advanced version of the econ-wheel chair that will be programmable, he is currently undertaking his attachment at the US giant tech company, IBM office in Nairobi.
Advice to the aspiring robot engineers: Chase your dreams despite the obstacles that might come in between the way.