Since the outbreak of Covid-19 over a year ago, individuals and groups have come up with inventions to try and mitigate virus spread.
Challenged by what their peers in other universities were doing, a group of 18 students from Technical University of Kenya came together to make an invention that would help in the fight against the virus.
The group wanted to make something unique that had not been made by the other universities, an innovation that would be of benefit to them. And so they came up with the temperature detection booths which also double as a security check.
Initially, the university had a security system to just detect if those entering the institution had any weapons. The system would detect metals.
Being in a campus in the central business district, they had to come up with what occupies a small space.
“We knew one of the ways to tell whether someone was having symptoms of Covid-19 was through checking temperature so we said the only way we can determine who to quarantine or who to take the tests is by having a machine that can detect temperature,” Tryphone Oloo, a member of the group that designed the temperature measuring devices now being used at the campus main gate, told the Star.
Seven group members were from the faculty of engineering, six from the school of biomedical sciences and five from the school of physics and space sciences.
They have three other machines located at the finance office, the vice chancellor’s office and at the university’s clinic. These are the areas with the most traffic in the campus.
Initially 20 students had agreed to participate but due to the travel restrictions and curfew, those in the villages could not make it to Nairobi where the project was to take place.
To get the work done, the group agreed that those from the school of physics would handle the security bit of the invention. The mechanical students were to handle the fabrication, the electrical were to do the sensors aspect while the biomedical students were tasked with doing the temperature part by ensuring the temperature was within range.
“It took us from April to August to come up with a system but the final one started working in November when students resumed,” Oloo said.
Getting the materials they used was not a hard task. With the administration’s support, they were able to get funding for almost all the required materials, save for the fare they would use to go to Industrial Area to get the materials.
Oloo estimates that they used around Sh60,000 per device. The metallic sheets they used were already in the school workshop.
Typically, touchless temperature kiosks can range from Sh200,000 to Sh750,000 in the market.
The pricing can also vary due to mounting options, quantity discounts and installation requirements.
They were not allowed to move around the school during the day for the fear of spreading the virus so they would undertake most of their activities in the evenings.
“The only things we bought were the spray paints, the sensors and the welding rods. We split into groups, those from biomedical were to source for temperature sensors, physics were advising on the best magnets while the mechanical were dealing with the metallic part of it,” he said.
The initial plan was to have an oval structure but they settled for a rectangular one based on its ability of stability.
HOW IT WORKS
The system is fitted with temperature (linear variable temperature sensors) and proximity measures.
With the proximity sensors, the moment a person passes next to it, the beams inside are blocked and a transmission sends a message to alert of any metallic object detected.
Within it is a hollow part that has wires connected withsensors to the central CPU, a controller called a programmable logic controller.
When a student passes through the gate, they have to place their hand on the reader and have to wait for at least 10 seconds for the sensor to send the information to the PLC and then be relayed back.
“When you pass through and put your hand it will reads the temperature and tell you whether you are safe or not,” he said.
If you have normal temperature and no metal objects detected, it will give two green lights to signal that all is well. However if the temperature is high, in this case above 37 degrees Celcius, it will give a red light, and sound an alarm indicating that you need to step aside and Covid-19 measures instituted.
“No system has been 100 per cent efficient, that is why we always have maintenance. Another challenge is that some students don’t want to have their temperature taken especially when they are late for class and have to be forced to do it,” Oloo said.
According to Oloo, the sensors can test only on the skin but they avoided using infrared x-ray for fear of its effect on the skin.
“On the body we just used mild steel, we were thinking of riveting or using aluminium because it is light and can easily be broken compared to steel,” he added.
With the devices at the gate, the work of security men at the gate is just to ensure students and all visitors check their temperature and wash their hands before entering the school compound.
Since its launch in November, it has been able to pick eight students that had high temperature. The students were isolated and quarantined but Covid-19 tests returned negative.
The machine has a capacity to scan more than 8,000 people a day without breaking down. The group hopes to come up with another device soon when their school timetable relaxes a bit.