ACCRA, Ghana — Alarmed by the rate at which the Covid-19 pandemic is spreading in their country, a group of Ghanaian girls from Labone Senior High School in the capital, Accra, invented a touchless smart sanitizer dispenser to help curb the spread of the disease.

“We wanted to reduce the rate at which Covid-19 was spreading, and also to make it easier for people to keep themselves safe,” their group leader, Princess Anetor, told Zenger News.

“Besides, most students tend to forget their sanitizers at home. We hope to produce more of this product and place it at strategic points in every class and the school at large.”

Besides Anetor, the other innovators are Yaa Oparebea and Triphina Cudjoe, all aged 18.

Their invention came days after 136 students of Achimota School in Accra tested positive with the Delta variant of Covid-19 on July 4, 2021.

Addressing the media on July 4, 2021, in Accra, the director-general of the Ghana Health Service, Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, said most students who tested positive were day students.

The Labone Senior High School students invented the Touchless Smart Sanitizer Dispenser from recycled material such as plastic bottles, straws, microcontrollers, sensors, cables, and batteries. (Jonathan Soweh Kennedy)

As of July 26, 2021, Ghana has recorded over 101,000 Covid-19 cases and 817 deaths since it reported the first case in January 2020, according to the World Health Organization.

The Labone Senior High School students invented the Touchless Smart Sanitizer Dispenser from recycled material such as plastic bottles, straws, microcontrollers, sensors, cables, and batteries.

They also used Arduino, an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software.

Their gadget simultaneously spouts the sanitizer, and when connected to the internet, displays the Covid-19 updates, including the number of cases, recoveries, and deaths.

“We chose these materials to minimize the cost and increase their durability and portability. Moreover, they neither rust nor wear out,” Anetor told Zenger News.

The device has a sensor that detects the presence of a hand and activates the pump to spout the sanitizer. Further, it has a Wi-Fi module that connects it to the internet.

“It runs a query online to get the current Covid -19 statistics online and displays it on a screen in front of it. It also keeps updating itself when the data on the internet changes.”

She said the device is filled manually with the sanitizer.

They hope individuals, businesses, schools, government institutions, and hospitals across Ghana will embrace the device widely and quickly.

Nathaniel Addo-Quaye, a 20-year-old alumnus of Labone Senior High School and the product engineer at InovTech STEM Center, mentored the young inventors on their project.

“I love working with girls,” the computer science student at Pentecost University told Zenger News.

“It saddens me that they feel they are not part of the tech world. Some are scared of information technology. So I want to break that mentality and to set an example to other girls that they can also be in the tech space.”

Nathaniel Addo-Quaye, product engineer and mentor for the girls at InovTech STEM Center. (Nathaniel Addo)

He tasked the girls of Labone Senior High School to develop a solution that would help stop the spread of covid-19 with the available materials within their reach.

He said the project consumed a lot of time, especially during the final design stages, since they had to reshape the recycled materials. The project took two months to complete, he said.

“But it takes less than $25.16 to build this project from start to finish. It was a nice experience for us all despite the time we spent to crack it.”

He said the project would help address the plastic menace in the country.

“Technology is one of the greatest tools of industrialization, and I want to make an effort to impact my generation with knowledge and mentorship.”

Ghana’s global innovation index has gradually dropped from a high of 30.6 in 2013 to 22.3 indexes in 2020, according to Knoema.

Jonathan Kennedy Sowah, 22, a self-taught computer science and robotics engineer and founder of InovTech STEM Center, said the recent ranking does not shock him.

“Misconception about science, technology, engineering and mathematics, coupled with inadequately trained teachers, lack of awareness on these subjects, are to blame,” he told Zenger News.

“The disproportionate domination by men in sciences has made the country rank poorly both globally and regionally.”

He termed the Labone Senior High Schools girls as “groundbreakers” for their invention.

Jonathan Kenndey Soweh center with Students from Labone Senior High in Accra Ghana during a class STEM subjects class presentation. (Jonathan Soweh Kennedy)

“This proves that when students get problems to solve with the necessary materials and the opportunity to explore and discover things on their own with guidance from experienced instructors, they do more than expected.”

He faulted Ghana’s education system, saying much of the learning is theoretical instead of practical.

“Most students only get to make career choices at the university, and the slow learners find it hard to grasp basic engineering concepts. This forces most students to opt for “easier” courses.”

He said his organization had exposed over 5,000 students to technology at early ages, including the latest innovators of Labone Senior High School.

“We constantly update our programs at the pace demanded by the labor market and equip teachers with training and resources necessary to teach science subjects. We also mentor students and encourage them to study science courses at all levels of education. This helps them decide on their career choices early and gives them the confidence to pursue science courses at the university level.”

(Edited by Kipchumba Some and Anindita Ghosh)

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