This South African teen duo has just built a remote-controlled robot that extinguishes fires

Nduta Waweru October 27, 2018
Photo: Sowetan Live

The rise of technology has seen the creation of innovative products to help combat every day problems.  The most recent is a robot to help extinguish fires created by two high school pupils from South Africa.

Trevor Simelane, 16, and Joseph Mdluli, 17, pupils from Mandlesive secondary school, Kanyamazane in Mpumalanga developed a prototype robot to fight fires.

The two were inspired by the fire that recently broke out at Bank of Lisbon building in Johannesburg that saw the death of three firefighters. It is reported that the fire had continued on and off for three days before it was completely extinguished.

The two students submitted the prototype to the HIP2B² 3M Innovation Challenge, a competition for pupils to generate innovative ideas to solve problems in their communities using science. Established in 2002 to  promote the study of maths, science and technology-related subjects, the contest is the brainchild of billionaire businessman Mark Shuttleworth.

“We decided to tackle the problem of fires because it is one of the top three [problematic] issues in the country,” Simelane said as reported by the Sowetan Live.

They won the challenge and took home about $100 each, an iPad each and a goodies bag.

The impressive aspect of their robot- and which caught the judges’ eye- was that their ability to use materials found in their village. The robot comprises a body that looks like a toy car and a remote made of cardboard box. The robot is then plugged into a socket for it to function.

“The robot is meant to detect people in the building and extinguish class A to F fires. It uses dry powder and wet chemicals to stop the fire instead of water,” Simelane said.

The robot, according to Mdluli can also transform smoke from the fire into carbon dioxide, which then extinguished the fire.

“This robot must be controlled by a firefighter who is away from danger,” he said.

The two hoped that the product would be used in the country and exported overseas to help deal with fire problems.

Simelane and Mdluli were not the only ones celebrated at the contest.

The Ledwaba sisters, Nomvula, 16, and Elizabeth, 15 were applauded for creating a solar bookcase that lights up desks for pupils without electricity.  Hudson Mashaninga and Thokozani Mlauzi created a backpack for storing litter, to prevent people messing up the environment in case of lack of dustbins.

The boys now join a number of South Africans who have build robots for various reasons.

Early this year, a 10-year-old South African girl, Karabo Matlali, built a  moving robot, thanks to her skills in mathematics.

Mpho Makutu also builds and sells remote-controlled cars and battery-powered robots and cranes, and uses the proceeds to fend for his family. He uses scrap metal, wires and card boxes collected from Johannesburg’s dumpsites to create these robots. He hopes to become an inventor so that he can employ people and build important machines like a “plastering machine” that can save construction workers from the risk of falling from tall buildings.

These creations are just starting points at what robots can be used for in Africa and the world.

Last Edited by:Nduta Waweru Updated: October 31, 2018


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