The drive to bring Nigeria out of its environmental and energy problems received a major boost last week when budding innovators and inventors from 23 Nigerian tertiary institutions converged on Civic Centre, Lagos to compete and showcase their works.

In what turned out to be a tough contest, the students laid bare the scientific processes for the inventions, seeking help to advance the projects.

For two days, chief executive officers, professionals and experts from different firms, pored over the works, interrogating the presenters and the project prospects.

In the end, representatives of the Covenant University, Ota, emerged winners, beating their closest rival, Ahmadu Bello University, to second place.

By winning the competition organised by Enactus, a global non-profit organisation, Covenant University will represent Nigeria at the Enactus World Cup in San Jose, California, USA in September 2019.

The panel of judges was impressed by the team’s PetCity and Toles, projects addressing environmental pollution while creating jobs for many.

According to the Covenant University team leader, David Iyiola, PetCity focused on the reduction of plastics and nylon from the environment.

The initiative is about collecting used plastic and nylon wastes, and turning them into sustainable building materials that are cost effective and durable for use.

The group concentrated on interlocking bricks to address the problem of bad roads in the country, starting with their academic community.

“We started fully in May 2019 when we produced our first brick in the foundry, at the mechanical engineering department, where most of our production takes place. During this period, we also visited the civil engineering department to perform various tests on our bricks to see the level of durability.

“After concluding on the price of our innovative bricks and blocks, we laid the interlocking bricks at one of the Covenant University walkways,” he said.

However, the group had a challenge: their method could not produce a large number of the needed bricks daily.

To resolve the problem, they decided to build a machine that could produce the bricks in large numbers.

This further meant more people would be needed to lay the bricks.

“We decided to employ people and seek partnerships to scale our project. We are in talk with the Centre for Economic Policy and Development Research for partnerships and sponsorship to produce 85,000 interlocking bricks for the repair of the Ota-Idiroko Road and also in touch with Pertinence Company to supply interlocking bricks for the conclusion of their real estate project at Ibeju Lekki, Lagos,” Iyiola said.

The team leader said the PetCity could reduce plastic waste in Lagos and Ogun states by 96 per cent in 2022, as over 19 million interlocking bricks had been projected for production by then.

The second project of the team, Toles, a social enterprise, focused on recycling used tyres into durable footwear.

Iyiola said the project was to solve the problem of tetanus among children in rural communities.

He noted that through the one-for-one business model, the group had produced over 3,922 footwear.

Representatives of the Ahmadu Bello University had a different idea of recycling plastic waste to solve the problems of environmental degradation and flooding.

This was through the conversion of the waste to wax and shoe polish to save the environment and promote the well-being of community members.

To create jobs, beneficiaries of the project were empowered to be involved in marketing, production and sales of the product, the team leader, Joseph Onaji said.

The team from Bayero University Kano invented Project Zazoo, an innovative solar-powered smart tricycle.

The tricycle, which uses a PV solar panel, charging controller, DC motor, was built to aid mobility and create jobs for persons with disability.

The team leader, Olumide Areo, said, “Compared to tricycles that are powered by fuel, Zazoo smart tricycle uses green energy and in situations of power breakage, the tricycle has an inbuilt manual drive that uses a simple handheld reciprocating motion, instead of the circular chain drive in conventional manual disabled tricycles,” the team said.

For the team from the University of Makurdi, Benue State, their prison entrepreneurship and reform project could equip prisoners with academic and agricultural skills that would help reintegrate them back to the society.

Team Makurdi, according to the leader, Vincent Okeke, is interested in reducing recidivism to nil in Nigeria.

Interventions in power, energy conservation

It was observed that while the main competition was on, some of the varsities also competed in sub-competitions sponsored by different companies.

One of such was the energy challenge of the Sahara Group.

Students from the University of Port Harcourt milled around a device they called Terlux, a fuel-less and fumeless power-generating machine.

The machine is made up of DC motor, coil, armature and DC battery. As the battery powers the motor, the motor is connected to the coil through a linkage made up of metal and rubber. This then turns the armature, thereby generating AC current, the team leader, Stephen Batombari, told the news men.

According to him, the biggest strength of the machine is that it does not emit carbon.

“You may ask if the battery will not run down too quickly. The answer is that we have an alternator inside the system which recharges the battery, like you have in a car. The only warning about this machine is that you must not exceed its power capacity,” he said.

The 300-level Mechanical Engineering student said Terlux could be used both indoors and outdoors.

Batombari, while insisting that it was high time Nigeria moved from combustible fuel to renewable energy, said the group fought setbacks and frustrations while building the machine.

The team from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, built what they termed the Quantum Energy System.

Describing how the system works, the project leader, Obinma Philemon, said the machine’s projection was infinite.

“It starts off from a battery, which powers a motor. The motor is designed to work as an alternator armature. The motion of the alternator generates power. We have divided the output from the alternator to two sources: 240 and 12 volts. The 12volts is rectified by some network of circuits. The power from the rectifying circuits is fed back into the system to keep the battery recharged. This way, it maintains a circular motion while giving some amount of electricity. The whole idea is to eliminate the use of fuel,” the 400-level Surveying and Geoinformatic student said.

Philemon, who noted that he was inspired by the free energy works of Serbian-American inventor, Nicola Tesla, said his team had been working on the project since 2017.

He explained that the result of the several improvements was the system, which he said he hoped could help Nigeria’s power need.

“Everybody has need for power. But not everybody can afford it. Not everybody has money to keep buying fuel or paying for regular servicing. These are the variables we have tried to eliminate with our free energy system. It does not have a fuel tank or exhaust. With the right investment, we can have this kind of systems in homes not connected to the power grid,” he added.

The team from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, had an energy conservation device they called the I-sense.

The group’s leader, Abdultoheeb Ilori, said I-sense could save up to 40 per cent of energy being consumed in homes.

Ilori, a 500-level student of Electrical Engineering, said the device comes with Wi-Fi modules, GSM modules and a central brain.

“If you have a phone, you can remotely control the lighting system of your home without an internet connection. You can switch off your lights, sockets, extensions after connecting the device to your distribution board.

“The production cost per unit is N19,350. We built it in one week. We are about 63 students who constructed it. If we were to supply people, it would take just two days to produce,” he said.

Students from the Kaduna Polytechnic also created what they described as a conservative light floss for the purpose of energy conservation.

The team leader, Gibson Emmanuel, a final-year student of the Computer Engineering Department, said the device had 100 per cent efficiency in the reduction of power consumption.

He said, “The incandescent bulb uses 10 per cent of its energy for illumination and 90 per cent for heat. The compact florescent bulb uses only 45 to 50 per cent as light and the rest is wasted as heat.

“So, we came up with a means that has 100 per cent efficiency, so that you can light up your environment and not waste any iota of electricity. That is why we came up with the conservative light floss. It does not convert the energy to heat. It uses 90 per cent of its energy to illuminate and the remaining 10 per cent is used as heat. It is a similar to a 40 watts incandescent bulb.

“We are trying to curtail the amount of money spent on electricity bill. The conservative light flux is highly scalable, user-friendly, made from recyclable materials, waste spoons, compact disk and spoons. People can hang it on their walls or ceilings.”

Emmanuel said the device was designed for small and medium scale enterprises to reduce the money spent on power.

The Tai Solarin College of Education developed the Project I-Power, a moveable kiosk through which students recharge their phones and laptops.

The project leader, Mustapha Oluwatomilola, said his team assembled solar panel, battery, charge controller and an inverter to power the kiosk.

“It is to provide power for students to recharge their laptops and phones and also reduce students’ exposure to social vices. Your phone may get stolen while recharging it at a friend’s place and as a lady you could get raped in the process of recharging a phone at night. These are the stories we hear from our student affairs unit and we decided to solve the problem with this, which we have also turned to a business.

“We have a spot we use on the campus and we charge N50 per phone. We are trying to partner network providers so they can use our platforms for adverts. If they did this, students using their services would not pay to recharge,” he said.

Oluwatomilola said 45 to 50 per cent of profits from the project were channelled to providing power for Sagbokogi and Gbelejo, two communities in the Apapa area of Lagos that had not had power supply in more than 100 years.

“We make over N44,000 in a month from this business. In three months, we raised the value we used in building a kiosk. We have lit up about 69 homes in the two island communities already and we hope to do more,” he said.

It was learnt that the energy projects would be taken to a lab for tests to determine their value and if the technologies were new or already in existence.

Judges who evaluated some of the works commended the initiative of the students, saying it showed that Nigeria had a great future ahead.

The Director, Business Process and Technology, Prime Atlantic Ltd, Foluso Gbadamosi, said, “The experience of having to challenge themselves to identify issues and problems and come up with creative and resourceful solutions will count a lot for many lives.”

A public affairs specialist with Nestle Nigeria Plc, Mr Edidong Peters, described as impressive the “skills, talents and entrepreneurial spirit of the students.”

“The students were very bold, confident and impressive. This is my first time judging and I am honestly very impressed,” said Chief Financial Officer, Transport Service Limited, Olusike Bamisebi.

The Chief Executive Officer, AfricanFarmer Food Chain Ltd, AfricanFarmer Mogaji, said the students were developing exceptional skills that would make them stand out in team work, decision-making, problem-solving and self-confidence.

The Country Director, Enactus Nigeria, Michael Ajayi, said with over 10 million Nigerian children reported to be out of school, it was important to make investments in intellect development and training that would help to leapfrog and accelerate the human capital development of the youth.

He said such development was necessary if the country would transit from being a developing nation to becoming globally competitive and globally relevant.

ENACTUS, an acronym for Entrepreneurial ACTion US, is an international community of students, academic and business leaders who use entrepreneurial action to create a better world.

The group, which is in 36 countries, including Nigeria, is active in over 1,730 tertiary institutions.