By Caroline Chebet, Giants Club African Conservation Fellow, The Standard.
Published 28 September 2017.
An encounter with itchy sisal juice while extracting fibre fired up an idea by two students to explore ways of generating power from plant extracts.
The idea has led the two, students of Keriko High School in Njoro to emerge the winners in this year’s Kenya Science and Engineering Fair chemistry category. The event was held last week at Egerton University.
Hannah Wambui and Teresiah Kanini, both in Form Three, successfully executed the project by mixing sisal, lemon, and euphorbia sap in empty dry cell containers to produce electricity.
“Sisal juice is very irritating once it gets in contact with the skin, just the way euphorbia sap is tingly and lemon is bitter. Having been familiar with the experiences, we ventured into researching how these plants can be of value, given the harsh reactions they provoke,” Kanini said.
Their project, the Waka Cell, they said, is coined from the prefixes of their names, Wambui and Kanini.
The students at the six-year-old day school in a remote village in Njoro sub-county of Nakuru defied all the odds to beat big schools in the contest.
“We do not have a library yet but we sourced books from neighbouring schools. We used a makeshift laboratory. Since it was during the April holidays, we conducted our research without much interference,” Wambui said.
At the school, the Waka Cell project is displayed in a corner of the sparsely equipped laboratory.
“Our project seeks to address the challenges of frequent power outages as well as the high cost of electricity and its installation by using readily available materials,” Kanini said.
Old dry cells are emptied and refilled with extracts from plants. The zinc carbon inside the cell is retained. The power produced can light a bulb and operate an alarm and other electrical devices.
The project, according to the students, is environmentally friendly and easy to regenerate as plant extracts can be continually changed with time, unlike dry cells, which are discarded once they expire.
Read the full story here. This story is reproduced here as part of the Giants Club African Conservation Journalism Fellowships, a Space for Giants programme to expand the reach of conservation and environmental journalism in the four countries where we work.