How a Former lecturer in Kenya is Nurturing Innovators through Gearbox Tech-hardware Hub

Africans have proved to be innovators by coming up with great technologies that are recognized all over the world. Such as these top tech innovations from Kenya. This inspires more people to become innovators. However, it’s not always an easy road for those who are starting, especially the youths in Africa. After you come up with a great idea, you have to create a prototype – a physical working example of your idea. Prototypes need resources which most youths in Africa lack. That’s why a former lecturer in Kenya, by the name Dr. Kamau Gachigi, came up with the idea of a tech-hardware hub known as Gearbox.

Dr. Kamau Gachigi, the founder of Gearbox

Dr. Kamau Gachigi Is a former lecturer at the University of Nairobi. He did his Bachelor’s in materials science in the UK in the year 1988. He did his doctorate in solid-state science in the US. Mr. Gachigi also lived in Japan for nearly three years to conduct his research for TDK on materials for electronic components. Dr. Gachigi then taught material science to engineering students of the University of Nairobi from 1999 to 2014. Apart from teaching, he also led a committee in charge of setting up a Science and Technology Park. This was supposed to develop technologies from basic research done within the university. He later abandoned his career for something more useful and productive for entrepreneurs. He set up and started running gearbox in partnership with a local software hub called iHub.

The Gearbox And Ihub

Gearbox aims at nurturing innovative hardware entrepreneurs. The tech hub offers prototyping facilities, training, fabrication, and design to students who have ideas they would like to share with the world. They offer services such as;

  • Laser cutting
  • 3D printing
  • Electronic circuitry

Since it’s hard for upcoming innovators to have purchased these materials themselves Gearbox and have placed the tools in one area and charging through a membership program. For $40, you get access to this hardware hub for two days a week. For $100, you can get access to this lab for a whole month.

They also offer training on how to use this equipment, as well as building the prototypes for you if you have the idea but lack the technical know-how. They can work with you to customize any machine or build one from scratch at a very affordable price.


Nairobi the “Silicon Savannah”

Nairobi has grown to one of the cities with the highest number of software startup companies, hence the name silicon valley”. Dr. Gachigi aims at making this City and Africa at large a hardware hub too. He aims at a situation where Kenyans can design working prototypes from start to finish before sending it to countries like China and India. Through Gearbox, he also aims at a situation where Kenyans can design, manufacture, and assemble their own products.

Being a lecturer for quite some time, he came across very talented students who were limited by the lack of resources to come up with working prototypes. He created a fully functional lab at the University of Nairobi in 2009, and it helped a lot of students. Launched in 2011, Gearbox is behind a lot of technologies that are already in use in various parts of Kenya. The bus industries in Kenya are required to install speed governors to prevent them from over speeding. The speed governors in use in Nairobi today were designed at Gearbox by Engineer Nicholus Kimali. Other innovations include irrigation systems powered by solar power. They are also behind the sanitary pads vending machine.

Roy Allela designed the Sign-10 gloves to help his niece, who was born deaf, communicate with other members of the family. These smart gloves use sensors that translate sign language into voice through an app. Roy designed the prototype for this device at Gearbox.

The Future of Gearbox

Gearbox plans to expand even into rural areas to ensure they nurture more innovative minds, even in marginalized areas. They also launched the Gearbox International Foundation to expand their idea to other countries in Africa.