A Form Three student in Mbita town in Homa Bay County has set up a rudimentary radio station that is broadcasting within a 21km radius.
The FM station broadcasts from a makeshift structure, located next to a water kiosk.
Two graduates from within the town have also joined him to help with generating content and broadcast of programmes to the community from Monday to Friday.
Steve Biko Odhiambo came up with the idea of Konzer FM at the outbreak of the Covid-19 infections in March 2020 and has used the station to create awareness on the pandemic.
“My radio is a 1Watt FM station that underwent four stages to be fully developed. The first stage is modulation where I got to set the frequency. Second is the pre-amplification stage where modulated signals are boosted. Third is the driver stage and lastly is the power amplification stage where the driven signals in stage three are transmitted to. RF signal is applied to the antenna. The station uses a dipole antenna; meaning it is a half wavelength,” said Biko.
But how did it all start? The 17-year-old student at Father Tillen Mixed Day Secondary School said: “Coming up with a radio station is a very simple concept.”
The idea first came to him when he was 10 years old and he ventured into innovating his first radio station.
“I made my first radio station when in Class Four. It was so good but the audio quality was so poor. It would be listened to in a 100 metres radius,” he said.
“With a Nival battery and an AM radio, if you tap the terminals of the battery with a coin, you will hear the effects being detected by the AM radio,” he said of how he got the idea.
Most of the equipment in his studio is locally assembled — both old and new. For the new ones, he explained, he started buying them while in Class Eight.
The equipment includes a desktop, a smartphone, transistor, microphone, IC, woofer, a radio cassette, signal booster, AC adapter, phone chargers, an amplifier, coils of wire, solar panels, power extension cables and antennas.
The foregoing, he explained, aids in the input and successful transmission of output that can be listened to on a radio set. It only took him knowledge and time to do the wiring that has now birthed a radio station.
When in Mbita town and its suburbs, Konzer FM can be listened to on the frequencies 107.0MHz and 106.9 MHz.
He has also connected electric power from a nearby house to his studio. In case of a power blackout, Biko has an automatic backup plan that ensures the station does not go off air at any given time.
“When there is current flowing through a wire, it forms a small magnetic field. Therefore, if you coil up a lot of wire, it produces a strong magnetic field. To obtain a stable frequency, you must use a transistor and IC. My station has two frequencies because I used an old trimming capacitor. However, a digital modulator would ensure only one frequency,” said Biko.
He explained that his station is still a low power FM transmitter at the modulation stage, which he can tweak to a desirable frequency.
His plan, however, is to come up with a 100 Watts FM transmitter.
“It is at that point that I shall apply for a licence because 100 Watts is a high power FM transmitter. It will cover up to a 50-kilometre radius,” said Biko.
While the idea of the FM station only came through during the Covid-19 pandemic, Biko recalls that his gadget was assembled using old and discarded electronics parts. He started his journey in 2017.
Konzer FM is the culmination of his three-year-long toil inside the tiny room where he operates from.
His school principal Martin Opere described Biko as a genius who helped the school excel in science and engineering fairs at the local level.
“I came to know about the student when we were competing in a science and engineering fair early this year. We did not proceed to the county level but his good performance in physics surprised many because he did well despite our school not having a laboratory at that time,” he said.
He called on the government to help Biko nurture his talent and innovative ideas.
“Leaders should support the student to develop his creativity. The government has been calling for innovative ideas and solutions among the youth. The student has the potential to transform the lives of many, so let him be supported,” Mr Opere said.
According to Mr Opere, Father Tillen Secondary School intends to use Konzer Radio as a way of slowing down the spread of Covid-19 by putting speakers in classrooms and have teachers teach from the studio.
Biko has a dream of joining an international university to study engineering. His next project is to innovate a TV transmission system and own a TV station.
The innovator is also working on a simple transport system that would move locals across Lake Victoria. For instance, he intends to soon launch a bicycle that can be peddled on the lake.
“I had once innovated a drone which disappeared into the air after it was powered from the ground. I intend to assemble a helicopter and become the first person in this community to do such a project,” Biko claimed.
“The topography in Mbita makes the FM station to have a weak reception in some locations that are behind high hills. High temperatures during the day also affect reception in some parts,” Biko said.
Stephen Ouma, a co-presenter and a resident of Mbita, thanks Biko for his innovation and says the station has helped him hone his skills in broadcasting.
“Our programming is responsive to the needs and lifestyle of the community in which we operate,” said Ouma.
According to a write-up in the makeshift structure, the programming starts at 5am with the word of God. Residents tuning are then allowed to call in and take part in debates on current affairs.
The team at the station endeavours to present content on local and national news and entertainment.
Mr Walwanja Sam, the Suba North constituency manager, said the office of MP Millie Odhiambo has offered to help Biko, by paying his school fees in secondary school and clearing his innovation.
“The office of the MP is in the process of making things work out for Biko. Last week, Ms Odhiambo raised it with the Communications Authority (CA) to ensure his radio station is licensed,” Mr Walwanja said.
“We have made arrangements to move him from the water kiosk to a newly-built building in Mbita town. We are also going to pay his entire school fees,” he added.
He encouraged children who are talented to go out and conquer the world.
“Konzer FM enables Mbita residents to pass greetings to one another. Even when looking for someone without a mobile phone, we connect thanks to Konzer FM. For now, Konzer FM has engulfed our airspace and it is a good thing,” said Ouma Muga.
“His innovation is going to help solve the problem of unemployment. More young people should use their talents to create jobs and better the society,” said another resident.