When he is not in class at the Rift Valley Institute of Technology in Nakuru County, Kelvin Mwaniki is at his Karagoini rural home in Nyandarua County, roaming the village and knocking on the doors of his neighbours in search of dead electronic devices.
He uses such devices in building a smart security system, an innovation that has taken him places, including Sweden where he won an award in the Security Devices Innovation Category last year.
He says the Sweden trip has opened doors for him, including business contacts and networks in China.
Mr Mwaniki says he plans to exploit these opportunities and lessons learnt to improve his innovations. He went to Sweden after winning in the Innovators Business Competition sponsored by an NGO- Hand in Hand East Africa.
After the Sweden trip, he was assisted to register his company, Kematekh Limited which now has two sales and marketing employees.
Mr Mwaniki has also perfected his security system invention that is currently in high demand.
He sells the device for between Sh15,000 and Sh20,000. The earnings from the venture have enabled him to stop relying on his parents for most of his needs. He is even contributing in paying his school fees and once in a while he gives his parents a share of his income when his sales are good.
“Criminals are getting sophisticated and modern technology security systems is important,” says Mr Mwaniki.
The alarm system is capable of remotely locking and unlocking doors and can be used to charge a mobile phone and lights the house.
The security system is also programmed to sense if the person using the two-button remote control is the owner of the house or premises, an authorised person or a stranger. If a stranger is attempting to use the remote control to open the door, the alarm system sets off. This means even if the remote control is stolen, a burglar cannot use it to access your house.
Mr Mwaniki’s security innovation started gaining momentum at Karagoini Secondary School in 2015 when he participated in a secondary schools science congress. The project he presented at the event was a security alarm system assembled using scrapes and pieces of wood. He didn’t win top award but that did not stop him from relentlessly pursuing his dream.
He had earlier started repairing electronics while still a young boy, demonstrating an aptitude for innovation.
“Burglary incidents were common in my village and the surrounding areas and I decided to make the security alarm system,” says the innovator.
He installed his first alarm at his home. This attracted other customers like Lucia Wangechi, a shopkeeper who had experienced her fair share of burglaries at her home and shop.
“I had my doubts that the security alarm system could work. I decided to give it a try night after my shop and more than five homesteads were raided by thugs at night,” says Ms Wangechi.
“I was his second customer. Burglary cases stopped and more residents trusted and installed the security system.”
The trader had one system installed at her shop and home. She also bought a third one to be installed at her mother’s houses, who is living a short distance from her.
Mr Mwaniki’s parents, who initially thought he was being childish in collecting scrapes, were now convinced he was up to something good. They were so motivated that they gave him a spare room to store his treasure.
Mr Mwaniki says the demand for his gadgets is so high he is unable to fulfill it.
“I have a long list of customers, but I am unable to supply on time due to lack of raw materials and time since I must balance the business with my classwork,” he says.
Currently, the third year ICT student is developing a drone that can patrol, and monitor activities in large scale farms.
The drone is linked to a mobile phone or a computer, meaning one can monitor his farm from miles away.