Education institutions are places where students ought to be groomed and trained to get through different professions such as engineers, journalists, accountants among others. The institutions should be environments that are conducive and comfortable to learn and interact in.  Nicholus Kimali, a previous electrical engineering student, currently undertaking Masters in Computer Science and an administrator at University of Nairobi’s fab lab, is a Project Manager for various projects being undertaken at the laboratory.

Some of the projects he is managing and training engineering students on include, Last Mile Connectivity reflector for transmitting Wi-Fi signals, Maker Movement project,3D printer machine, laser cutter , printer circuit boards and routing machine. The 3D printer and routing machine designed and manufactured at the university have featured at past innovation forums. Kenya Engineer interviewed the project manager, Nicholus Kimali Muthoka about the Maker Movement for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) equipment.

The project is a partnership project between University of Nairobi, Kenyatta National Hospital and Concern Worldwide International, an NGO firm. Without maternal and newborn health equipment, health facilities cannot provide the high quality and timely services that mothers and children need.

“What motivated us to create the Maker Movement project is to help curb the increasing number of maternal death across the country.  Kenyatta National Hospital needed us to design, fabricate and test locally produced essential medical equipment, devices and spare parts for MNCH care,” said Kimali.  Designing and producing such equipments is important to us engineers to help us understand the contents in them and that is why we undertook the project, adds Kimali.

Before embarking on the project, the engineering students did an assessment of what hospitals required. Out of the assessment, the facilities in Nairobi lacked case management of maternal complications and advanced newborn care equipments. Some of the equipments needed at the facilities included a suction machine, vacuum delivery extractor, examination light, phototherapy unit, infant incubator, infant resuscitaire, patient monitor, and delivery bed and air- oxygen blender.

As he was taking me through the project, i inquired how much would the equipment cost? Kimali explained,” The suction machine, is a type of equipment we have created from scratch and we plan to sell it to the hospital at half the price. The price has been created through use of local materials though some materials were imported.

He added that Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and University of Nairobi have signed an MOU to create efficient standards for medical equipments especially during the fabrication process. KEBS has been supportive in meeting quality standards and they are working very hard in achieving those standards. We train students on how to interpret and design the standards to make the equipment acceptable worldwide.

One major challenge that the lab goes through is procurement especially with the public procurement procedures, the process takes ages in Kenya. For example, we have been procuring specialised machines to perform such projects for a very long time but it has not been futile.

The project manager admitted that several challenges such as human resource in terms of student skills. Students will require training on different concepts of the project which is time consuming and at the same time important to enable them grasp the idea in a project. Another challenge, students have limited time to pursue the project due to various curriculum activities hence delaying completion of the project.

 While concluding, Kimali is excited that the project has been successful with the available tools at their disposal. We have continued to gain support from various organisations which are assisting us do a number of projects.
A point worth noting is that all equipments created at the laboratory are computer numerically controlled (CNC). 

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