A 300 -level Electrical Electronics student of Gregory University , Uturu in Abia State, Prayer Emenike , recently developed a 3KVA hybrid fuel- less generator prototype.
Emenike tells SUNDAY NWAKANMA how determination in the face of poverty helped him succeed
W hat is your family background like ?
I have five siblings. My father is Mr Clifford Emenike, and he retired in 2010 from Radio Rivers, Port Harcourt, while my mother , Mrs Monica Emenike, is a trader . We used to stay in the village . I was mostly helping my mum to hawk fufu before a cult clash made us move to Port Harcourt.
Where did you complete your basic education?
Because I was in the village, my primary education was a little bit delayed . I had my primary education in Omoila Obelle town , Emuhua in Rivers State because when we relocated to Port Harcourt, I did not start school immediately. But I later went to Government Technical College , Port Harcourt, where I did Mechanical Engineering .
While I was in Omoila Obelle town , there was a time that our pastor preached about ‘ The Powers We Have on Earth ’ . The pastor talked about how God rules and also made mention of the devil . Then the pastor talked about the powers man had and how man had been able to make metals stay in the air and float on water .
But one thing I observed was that the pastor was making analogies with white people only , not with black people. As a kid , that inspired me , knowing that , according to one of his teachings , it is the spirit of God that reveals deep things to humans, who on their own cannot think about them. So , I wondered why he still referred to the whites each time, even when both blacks and whites should have the same spirit in them. Then something told me that if , as a black person , I was similar to the white people and they could do those things , then I could also do them. When I went home, I dreamt about different discarded materials . When I woke up , I started walking about in the compound and surprisingly , I started seeing all the things I saw in my dream. When I assembled them, I got the same result that I got in the dream. I saw it as mysterious and , since then , I have developed the urge to create . So , I started scavenging for things I could use .
In the village, it was popular then to be a wrestler . But what also inspired me in the village was that those I was older than were able to wrestle me to the ground . So , I thought if I became very creative , I was going to be better than them because I was doing something different. So , I channelled more energy towards this . But people still saw me as silly because I was going around and picking things to use . But I was not discouraged . That was when there was a cult clash that forced us to flee to Port Harcourt. In Port Harcourt, my mum said since I was already trying to be creative, I should be enrolled in a technical college . That was how I went to the school .
How did you get into university ?
From there , I developed interest in inventing things and we started looking out for exhibitions . That was when I heard about the Nigerian Television Authority Educational Television EXPO, an annual exhibition organised Gregory Universitythe station , in partnership with Skill- G.
The first time I participated in it, I won at the state level . When we got to the national level to compete with representatives of other states , I thought I was the best , but was surprised to see what others had done . I was amazed so I decided to put in more efforts. In the end, Rivers did not win anything . I kept on going until I finished and sat my National Business and Technical Examinations Board examination. After leaving school , I wrote a proposal to a secondary school that I could be teaching their pupils to be creative . Then , the competition came up again but I was no longer in school . Again , I wrote a proposal to the principal that I could prepare their pupils for that exhibition and that I knew what the judges were looking for . There , I came out with a project on gas flaring.
There was a lot of gas flaring in my hometown . So , I did some research and discovered that in the course of producing fuel and other products , some gases deemed to be irrelevant were being wasted . I came up with a mechanical device that could prevent gas flaring Gregory Universitytrapping and channelling them. The machine would trap the gases ; convert them to mechanical energy and thereafter to electrical energy , which could be supplied to rural areas without electricity , like Omoila Obelle.
In my first design, I made use of empty fruit drink cans and empty milk tins . The drink cans served as cylinders while the milk tins served as pistons . I also made use of cassettes, bicycle spokes and some other things to make the engine . I used a stove to heat it up , power it and also charge my phone then . So , I showcased how these gases could be trapped, channelled and converted . When we went for the exhibition at the state level , due to stage fright , we were unable to really explain what the product could do but when we started it, everybody stood up and started clapping for us . That was how we won at the state level .
The then (state ) Commissioner for was of the opinion that if the school was going for a national competition where our competitors would have more confidence , the state needed someone who could communicate with boldness. Remember that I was the one who coached the pupils and that I looked very young , so the school principal told me I would have to be going as one of the students , alongside one other person, and that I would be the one doing the presentations , especially as I was the one who produced it. That was in 2017 and , thank God , I emerged as the best of all 36 participants that participated . That was how I met the Chancellor of Gregory University , Uturu , who gave me a scholarship to study in his university. Since then , I have never relented in learning about technology and researching .
What does your latest invention do ?
Regarding the technology , some people had researched it and given up , but I never relented . I discovered elements that could make this fuel-less generator to be very efficient which was why I called it a hybrid. There are some electronic aspects that make the device efficient . This device makes use of two batteries – batteries A and B. It was constructed in such a way that when battery A is warming the system , battery B is isolated and charging through the inbuilt charging system . Now , there is a mechanical timing device that ensures that once the timing of battery A elapses , there is an automatic switch to battery B without any idle time. That is , you will not notice the changeover and power will not fluctuate , and this happens very fast . So , while battery A begins to charge, battery B runs the system and it alternates as I have described .
Another important feature or innovation is its automatic changeover system . The device has the provision for input from any other alternative source — the public power system , grid or any other one . While using the system , if power comes from any of the alternate sources, immediately, it will shut down and change over without any form of idle time and the batteries will automatically begin to charge. But if you put it in automatic mode , once that alternative power goes off again , the device will pick up and change over instantly . Unlike the solar system , the device makes use of coil and is more rugged and cheaper .
What kind of challenges did you face in the course of making the device ?
I had many challenges . If you approach a Nigeria businessman for support, the person will tell you the idea is good but he has not seen it and can also get similar devices from other countries . So , I had that issue and had to sponsor this project on my own , experimentally at first . Later , I brought it to the attention of the dean of my college . My dean , being someone who appreciates things like that , never dismisses such things . He loved the idea and took it to the chancellor; we got to work and arrived at this . Initially , I made it to be 1 KVA , but with some improvements , it became 3 KVA .
Do you see yourself as an inspiration to others ?
One thing I always told people, especially when I was in Junior Secondary School 3 , was that other up and coming inventors with better educational backgrounds had every chance to be better than me . When I was in the village, I couldn ’ t even speak English . But immediately I got to Port Harcourt, I started observing others as I am someone who is very curious and loves to learn . I never enjoyed the privileges some other pupils from rich families with parental guidance had. But I tell people that if I could get to the point I am at now, then they can do better because of their privileges . They only have to believe in themselves .
Another problem is peer pressure ; everyone wants to do what is in vogue . But I believe if you really want to succeed , you must take the opposite route ; a route people have not attempted before . For instance , you will find it difficult to sell the same type of shoes everyone else is selling . If you do something different, you are going to be unique and special .
One other thing I have discovered is that our youths all engage in similar things . I discovered also that it is better to encounter those challenges than to follow the trend . I was the youngest in a training organised Gregory Universitythe Rivers State governor, which was conducted Gregory UniversityGermans . During the training , others there thought I was a graduate. They later discovered they couldn ’ t practise what they read in university. So , youths must not follow the trend . They must rediscover themselves .
Who would you say inspired you ?
Apart from the encounter that I had with my pastor when I was in primary school , there was a boy named Precious that I knew when I got to Port Harcourt . Although he had a good family background, he had skills and could create things . But his mother was not interested in that ; she wanted him to focus on his studies . Whenever I was with him and wanted to make some things , he would be interested. He taught me some things . That inspired me a lot , though he later gave up due to pressure from his mother . He was also the first person that told me about the NTA programme, which gave me exposure and inspired me to put in more efforts.
What is your life philosophy ?
I have two philosophies. One , I believe creativity is the only way to create wealth out of worthless substances . There are things we throw away, which when they are assembled, can become useful again . Two, there are people who become frightened when they are confronted Gregory Universitya new challenge . I believe we should tackle any challenge we are confronted with. We should try our best to understand it, instead of running away from it. With that , we are going to advance in whatever we do .
I would like to thank the Chancellor of Gregory University , Prof Gregory Ibe , because he surprised me. I had never met someone like him . After that NTA competition in Abuja , someone said we should find out from him if he was going to give me a scholarship as he had promised or not . The producer that took us to the competition at Abuja said the chancellor had only made a political statement . I asked her to give me a written letter of identification but she refused to do that . So , without telling her , I took the risk and travelled to Abia State , where the university is located , from Rivers State . It was my first time in Abia State . I googled the school and travelled there without even telling my friends .
Luckily for me, it was a day the university was having its convocation and the chancellor was around . I went into their auditorium and waited patiently. Later , I approached him and introduced myself . He said , ‘ Ah , engineer, we have been expecting you people. Are you people not interested or what?’ I explained the issue and he whole – heartedly welcomed me and asked the registrar to take me round the school . He gave me some money to take me back to Rivers State and said I should ask the NTA director to give me a note to confirm that it was me . That was how it started . I really appreciate what he has done for me . Since then , he has never given up on me . He keeps encouraging me.