JKUAT Unveils Ventilators and Contact Tracing App To Address Covid-19 Pandemic

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People look at a prototype ventilator during its unveiling at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, May 6, 2020. (Xinhua/Charles Onyango)

Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) researchers and innovators from different disciplines have developed a number of technological innovations that seek to complement government efforts and strategies aimed at combating the Coronavirus disease. The innovations include: ventilators, contact tracing application, digital system to predict Covid-19 infection trends in Kenya, the automatic solar powered hand washing machine, personal protective equipment (masks) as well as hand sanitizers.

According to the JKUAT Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi, the fight against Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is at a critical point all over the world forcing global populations to come up with various strategies to ease the strain the pandemic has visited upon fragile health systems and social structures.

Prof. Ngumi while lauding the researchers and innovators for their innovative knack said institutions of higher learning such as JKUAT have a repository of experts in various fields who can work collaboratively to offer solutions to problems affecting the society.

JKUAT Ventilators

A multidisciplinary team of Engineers from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology has developed two portable prototype ventilators to address the shortage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ventilators that can run continuously on a 12 voltage battery, electricity or solar, and which used about 85% of locally available materials to make (save for fasteners and other electrical control components and the mortar), were conceived by 25 engineers from the College of Engineering and Technology (COETEC) – Mechanical, Mechatronic, Electrical and Electronics, and experts from the School of Medicine.

The ventilators have unique features that, besides their portability, are light in weight, meaning they could easily be transported and used at any point of need.

Besides being user-friendly and efficient since it can use battery, electricity or solar, the engineers have utilized materials that are easily available locally, to encourage mass production. The University has the capacity to make 10 ventilators weekly.

The Contact Tracing and Case Management App

Three Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology students namely, Victor Muthembwa, Boniface Bundi and Crispus Nyamberi have answered the call to innovate and creatively contribute to the fight against Coronavirus disease in the country.

They have developed a Contact Tracing Application to help identify who, where and when a person gets into contact with a Covid-19 positive person. The trio have since upgraded the App to include triaging and case management functions that are primed to solve the cumbersome nature of manual records currently witnessed in most hospitals across the country.

For years, contact tracing has formed the basis of public health response to curbing infectious diseases, and the novel Coronavirus is no different. The contact tracing app by the students is an important asset in this fight against the pandemic because of digital and specifically focuses on tracing contacts who use public transport, particularly Matatu. In order to demonstrate proof of concept, the students entered a partnership with Super Metro buses, which ply the Nairobi-Thika route, as well as Kikuyu, Uthiru routes in Nairobi. The demonstration has so far been a massive success, and they hope to roll it countrywide.

The expansion of the App which has made it quite robust has now seen the inclusion of crucial, authentic and verified information on the disease including the signs and symptoms, warning signs, and advisory on when to contact health professionals in case one suspects they have been exposed.

The Automatic Solar-Powered Handwashing Machine

Five research students from the Pan African University (Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI) domiciled at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) have invented an Automatic Solar Powered Hand Washing Machine, that will help the community around Juja, Kiambu County and indeed other parts of the country to keep off this scourge if clear instructions the machine gives are followed to.

Most of the materials and applications used to develop the automatic hand washing machine were locally fabricated at the workshop. The machine can be used even in the remotest areas of Africa that are not connected to power.

The machine has a sensor that detects every step when one wants to wash his hands. Immediately one draws his hands closer to the two fitted taps, the machine would sense the move and within a second, would dispense soap. The individual will then be allowed 15 seconds to scrub his hands, and within the next 15 seconds, water would be flowing for the individual to rinse his/her hands. Should the time allocated not be sufficient, the machine after sensing the same, would additional extend the flow for another five seconds after which it would automatically switch off, in readiness for the next user.

Branded Sanitizers and Masks

The University’s Chemistry Production Centre Department has developed pocket friendly branded sanitizers that have the capacity to kill all microbes. They come in 50ml to 5-litre packaging. The product is in two types: the gel and liquid (spray). The ingredients are as per the approved levels by the WHO and KEBS. The university has the expertise and capacity to make about 1000 litres a day.

The Masks are done by the Tailoring Department which is currently producing the recommended 3-layer masks that are re-usable, smooth and comfortable. The University can make 1000 pieces per day.

Digital System that Predicts Covid-19 Infection Trends in Kenya

Researchers drawn from Health sciences, IT, Mathematics, statistics, remote sensing and geomatics, has developed a web-based digital platform that provides diverse data that is key in predicting the coronavirus (Covid-19) disease infection trends in Kenya.

The innovation is a significant contribution by JKUAT aimed at supporting government’s strategies in combating the Covid-19 through prediction of coronavirus disease infection.

The Dashboard provides a one-stop shop for various data products critical for making policy decisions. One can access statistics on the total number of confirmed cases, active, recovered or dead cases, gender, local or foreign, daily confirmed cases dating back to when the first Covid-19 case in the country, the evolution of coronavirus cases in Kenya overtime and their distribution by counties.

The self-administered test can pick a person’s location and map it on to the dashboard. The ministry of health can then use this information relayed to the national map to make decisions such as undertaking mass testing in an area flagged by the map.

The researchers have further developed Composite Risk Indices (sensitivity analysis using varying levels of interventions the ministry of health has introduced such as – hygiene measures, social distancing, personal protective equipment (PPEs), testing, contact tracing, mobility, social gatherings, frontline staff, population structure and household characteristics among others.