Alexis Oketch never gave up his dream of becoming an electronics engineer even after dropping out of school in Form Two when his parents died in 1999.
The opportunity to expose Oketch’s knowledge and expertise came from an unlikely quarter – Covid-19. He has invented an automatic remote hand washing machine.
His machine uses minimal power from either a car battery or a power bank to automatically dispense water and soap or sanitiser after sensing a hand.
He used the locally available materials to make the machine which, once mounted on a water container, dispenses the contents automatically.
Oketch lived with his grandmother in Ogwedhi village, Suna East, Migori, after the death of his parents. He attributes the death of his parents to poverty.
Before their demise, he used to work as an apprentice at a radio and TV repair shop during weekends and holidays to supplement the parents’ meagre income.
Since there was no longer anybody to pay his school fees, Oketch took a full time job at the radio and TV repair shop where he used to work as an apprentice.
He has since worked for different electronic companies on contracts.
“I got the idea of creating this automatic hand washing machine after my son prodded me to do so when the first Covid-19 case was reported in Migori county,” he told the Star.
It took him five days in his workshop to come up with the invention. The hand sensor cost Sh10,000. It detects a hand under the soap and water dispenser and releases just the quantity needed to handwash.
“My first invention was running on a solar panel. After improvement, it now runs on power bank or battery in remote places,” Oketch said.
Pastor Joel Kirui said during a sermon he was impressed by the invention since one needs not touch the machine while using it. According to him, this is a sure way to stop the spread of the virus.
“We used it in a church meeting and I have also seen it used in a residential place. It is effective,” Kirui said.
He said the invention should be an encouragement to those locked out of universities that skills learnt in polytechnics or through apprenticeship can shape the country’s future.
The machine can be used in homes, dining halls, toilets or in high human traffic areas like hotels, hospitals, schools and churches.
“We need to support the invention through orders from institutions, supermarkets and hotels,” Kirui said.
Oketch said he can make 10 machines on a daily basis and appealed for mass orders to ensure his dream lives.