By the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) technology, we have been able to fashion an automated hand washing system. The use of sensors makes the system completely touch-free reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 through touching infected surfaces.

Timed processes e.g. 20 seconds to lather hands properly and 15 seconds to rinse hands makes the system efficient and ensures no wastage of soap and water.

The system is solar-powered hence it is not only clean and eco-friendly but also self-sufficient in terms of energy.

It is suited for high traffic areas such as bus stops, markets, and entry points to institutions, hospitals, malls, and estates.

The station will have a barrel that holds soap and water, two taps opposite of each, a motion sensor, and a roof that holds the solar panel, battery, and IoT devices. 

Using IoT gives us the means to dictate the amount of water plus soap per dispensation and do away with physical contact with the tap and reduce the amount of water consumed per dispensation from 1.7l to 0.3l of water. The system gives the user 20 seconds to lather soap properly as directed by WHO.

Using a barrel containing slightly more than 200 Litres of water, the station is able to service more than 600 people before requiring refilling.  

It has been quite a journey getting to the point where we have a working minimum viable product (MVP).  

“At the beginning of the year, I was facilitating learning for the course Research Methods and Academic Writing.  It was while engaging in this class Dr. Sharon Jones from the Environmental Resource Management (ERM) Department reached out asking for guidance in acquiring IoT devices she intended for setting up a weather station.  We quickly realised that we could work together with such that my students and she could work together. This collaboration meant that my students would carry out the necessary research on how to set up a weather station using IoT, then set up the weather station and then create a dashboard to display weather data and train Dr. Jones students on how to read the data.  However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were unable to continue with this learning project.  We then decided to take the students on a virtual tour of a weather station that is driven by IoT currently being run by Liquid Telecom.  This tour was so successful that several students took up the challenge afterward to work with me on a personal project to build an automated hand washing barrel after being inspired by several such offerings online – so as to combat the spread of the virus.  

We divided ourselves into three main working groups, physical design, the firmware team, and the alumni team of experts.  After several weekly virtual meetings, we came up with a design we were all happy with and set about building our MVP.  Because of the inter county lockdown, only three (3) of the eight (8) students could meet physically.  However, we kept the entire team in the loop via our multiple weekly Zoom meetings.  These meetings are predominantly initiated and managed by the students as they have taken full control of the entire project. With regard to physical space and the funding of our MVP, my company, ‘Nikola Energy’ provided for both.”

We have had several learning opportunities while doing the build that has seen us short circuit several micro-control units and therefore required us to get back to the drawing board to resolve these issues.  In the end, though, we have a fully working MVP; and at the moment, we are working on our 2nd MVP to resolve initial optimisation discrepancies and are extremely fortunate to be getting further assistance from Liquid Telecom in this regard.  Excitement at having a working prototype and having the right partners and an exuberant working group, we can’t wait to see what the future holds for us. 

Working on this project has lit a spark in me as a facilitator of learning and is inspiring me to constantly find ways of bursting the academic bubble so as to remove the current abstractness of learning within an institution of higher learning.  My students are becoming better aware of their responsibility to their communities and the fact that what we are learning should empower us such that we are able to solve for the problems we observe in our societies.

The Team:- 

Coordinators: Mark Mutaiti; Alvin Kiiru

Firmware: Eric Njuguna – (Team Leader) Phillip Mburu; Mark Mutaiti

Design: Bradley Chenane – Team Leader; Motanya Jeconiah; Kevin Wanyama; Eben Wafula; Alvin Kiiru

Professional/Expert Guides: Dr.Kendi Muchungi – Coach and Trainer, Professor; Shabaya Deche –

Product Design and Implementation: Timothy Marube – Firmware Expert and Consultant