College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and i5Hub host innovation pitch challenge

Story by Juliet Sithole

The i5hub in collaboration with the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) held an Innovation Pitch Contest on the 14th of November 2023 for students studying Computer Sciences and Software Engineering. 13 teams battled it out for pole position bringing solutions to such challenges ranging from alleviating urban congestion, health, climate change, access to education and more.  Innovation Manager Ms. Yollanda Washaya provided context and the rationale behind the initiative. “We have witnessed a growing interest among students in pursuing innovation with a substantial number of them approaching the i5hub with interesting ideas. Recognizing this trend, we are eager to join  the CEAS to provide an exclusive platform for students from this college to showcase and refine their innovative concepts. The aim is not only to provide an opportunity for the exchange of ideas but also to suggest valuable feedback that will contribute to the refinement of these concepts as students continue to ideate positively.”

Innovation Manager Ms. Yollanda Washaya

She went on to highlight that the core objective of the event was to empower young talent, foster an innovation culture, and ultimately contribute to the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem of the university.

Event corporate sponsor Powertel were also in attendance with the delegation including Mr. Itai Mahaka (IT, Research and Innovation Manager), Mr. Clarence Udinge (Accounts Manager) and Mr. Darlington Kurazari (Retail and Distribution Sales).

In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor of Africa University Reverend Professor Peter Mageto welcomed all to the  event, calling it a celebration of innovation and creativity and a positive step towards fostering a culture of innovation within the academic community. The Vice Chancellor went on to say, “We are thrilled that this initiative will extend  to other colleges as well. This inclusive approach reflects our commitment to Education 5.0, an education framework that emphasizes innovation and industrialization. Today’s event is a testament to our dedication to academic excellence, transformative research, creativity, and innovation, all of which are integral components of Africa University’s overarching goals. Every participant today is a winner, and this event is a stepping stone toward realizing your full potential.”

The VC also encouraged students to make the most of the i5Hub, which is a resource designed to nurture and cultivate ideas, providing students with the tools and support needed to turn one’s innovations into reality. “Let us all embrace a culture of innovation – students, staff, and the community alike” he said.

Judges indeed faced a tough decision in selecting the winners of the contest as all participants brought ideas and concepts brimming with creativity and originality. In a comment on behalf of the judges, Mr. Nkosana Maphosa , a lecturer in the School of Law said,” The expert in anything was once a beginner. It is therefore heartening to see our students putting themselves out there and really showing us just how dynamic they are. They are very in tune with the challenges we face as a continent and if what we have witness here today is anything to go by, our collective future is definitely in safe hands.”

Judges consider results after a pitch

Overall, the top three teams were Reagan Technologies led by Genius Mukichi and Jeffrey Murungweni, who came out tops with a smart block tile pavement technology that generates electricity from human motion. “We make use of piezoelectric transducers to convert human kinetic energy into stored off-grid electricity. Our technology comes with a digital application that helps individuals keep track of their daily steps and estimated power contribution. We also generate human traffic data in the process which can be used for business forecasts and decision making,” said Genius Mukichi representing his team.

Coming out second was the BiDox (Biometric Documentation) team led by Prominence Chiundo and Natalie Masvikeni.  Their pitch highlighted an identity verification and documentation platform that documents user information on a block chain database and encrypts it, allowing it to only be decrypted by provision of a user’s fingerprint. In a comment, they said, “Apart from identity verification, we offer extensive hosting and storage for organisations, as well as information access systems such as EHR’s (Electronic Health Records) for healthcare.”

Trafiki Africa, Jeffrey Murungweni’s brainchild, was placed third in the Pitch contest. This is a digital tourism information center in the form of a WhatsApp-based AI Chatbot that serves as the one-stop solution to all tourism needs in Zimbabwe. It provides one with comprehensive information on tourist destinations in the region. The main idea of this innovation was to expand the chatbot to cater for short-term accommodation bookings making it possible for tourists to have wider access to more accommodation options in a more convenient and efficient manner. “With Trafiki Africa, you can now explore Zimbabwe with ease and plan your trip with confidence,” he said.

The top 3 won prize money which will assist them in developing their ideas further.