The event partners, AccLabGM and Make3D (far left and right), and the event judges (back) huddle around the Hackathon Winners, WIG (center).

Part two of the AccLabGM hackathon blog post details the incubation period for the winning team and spotlights the other competing teams and their solution proposals. The first part of this series introduced the hackathon event and the design of the competition, which was hosted earlier this year.

From March 2020, the winners of the hackathon event, Women’s Initiative — The Gambia, will join AccLabGM at the Disruptive Lab co-working space to begin their incubation under the mentorship of Make3D — the event partner. Internally, this six-month opportunity will entail further training on 3D design and printing and an opportunity to interact with other 4IR technologies i.e. Robotics and Drone technology.1 Externally, AccLabGM and Make3D will conduct field visits to WIGs atelier and assess customer reviews that they have received since their establishment in 2015.

Over the six-month period AccLabGM will make observations, but also facilitate interactive engagements with the entrepreneurs across the 4IR domains to assess their likelihood of disrupting the infant service delivery industry.

Below are the profiles of the 10 teams that participated in the Hackathon:

Constant Recyclers

Constant Recyclers comprises University of The Gambia (UTG) students across various specializations within the Sciences and Liberal Arts. Most of the members are also previous UTG Hult Prize competitors. The team is interested in reducing single-used plastic waste through the creation of 3D printed products and accessories, specifically for branding and advertising to sustainably increase awareness and value around Intellectual Property (IP).

About Time We Pick It Up

As the only all-female team, the members of About Time describe themselves as “creative environmental enthusiasts.” This team is made up of current students, recent graduates, and even high school students — another first at the event. With a focus on preventing more sand from making its way to landfills, this team seeks to develop a 3D printed sand-filtering device for home use.

Dreamwork Multi-Services

Dreamwork multi services is a core team of seven individuals that operate at the cross point where electronics meets communication. The group mainly offers satellite installation and repair services and seeks to use 3D printing technology to build tools that can ink multiple Low-noise Block Down converters or LNBs to one satellite dish. They are also interested in exploring 3D printing with metallic inputs over plastic-based filaments.

 

Block Technologies

This team of six shares a common interest in entrepreneurship. Project areas they have worked on individually range from waste management to mobile app development. The team aims to design 3D printed garden sprinklers that use water more efficiently.

Greenwaste

This team of four is motivated by partnerships — something that came across clearly in the solution proposal they presented. The team seeks to make 3D printed molds for charcoal production for locally designed stoves. This biochar project was inspired by research into the hazardous health effect caused by biomass pollution.

YENet Gambia

Comprising three members, the Youth Entrepreneurship Network — Gambia (YENet Gambia) team is motivated by the environmental effects of toxic waste, climate change, and pollution, which they seek to tackle through affordable clean energy solutions. Their solution proposal also targets 3D printed biochar molds and goes further to promote composting of organic waste at dumpsites.

GreenSwitch

GreenSwitch is a student group that draws strength from the interdisciplinary background of its members. Their passion for youth-led development is captured by their threefold proposal which tackles three types of waste at landfills, by first reducing the amount of sand waste through a filtering device; then targeting the amount of metals scraps by turning them accessories for household fixtures such as desk lamp stands; and finally, creating custom soap molds from plastic waste for suppliers of soap within the local industry.

Mbolo Association

This dynamic trio that celebrates the unique perspectives of each member, entered the competition to builds on their collective previous experience in composting. The project seeks to create a 3D printer diaper clip that can be mass-produced for communities still using cloth diapers. Their aim is to tackle the indiscriminate use and dumping of plastic diapers and curbing such waste, which combined with human excrements, contributes to the release of toxic chemicals into the soil, atmosphere, and water bodies.

Team AYEA

Team African Youth Entrepreneurship Association (AYEA) — also an existing group — is a Pan African Youth organization with the main goal of setting up an academy to support and promote young and aspiring entrepreneurs across the continent. Their solution proposes for the use of plastic waste at landfills to develop stronger filaments that can be used to 3D print classroom furniture and accessories for rural schools. Among their concepts, was a prototype that combined3D printed parts with metal frames to make chairs more cheaply.

The capability to produce filament locally can be explored with the purchase of larger 3D printing and peripheral devices that have the capacity to grind plastic into granules that can then be heated and melted when added to the printing process. It is crucial to mention that after sorting, this plastic must be cleaned before grinding can be applied. Among the characteristics of these large printers, is that they are still in the experimental phase of development, are not equipped with their own grinders, and are tagged with a cost ranging from anywhere between USD 10,000 to 100,000. Yet they still present an opportunity to scale for local municipalities and their residents, who must develop competencies in recycling.

The teams were able to quickly recognize the potential of 3D printing not only in developing molds as shared in their pre-hackathon workshop, but for other creative uses as well. This included their application in developing prototypes in the development of models. Biochar based solutions were popular for the simple reason that with a mold that was relative quick and cheaper to make, producers could focus on mass scale production of their good. The students saw an opportunity for economics of scale and as entrepreneurs, who can blame them?

Yet profit was not the only motivating factor. Recycling was a precondition in nearly all of the solution proposals as part of larger environmental and health concerns. Socioeconomic issues: such as youth & women empowerment, and sustainable tourism, were also raised by the participants during the 3-day event. The experience revealed a number of things to the AccLabGM unit, but what was most revealing, was the level of creativity among youth in The Gambia. It is a shame that only one winner could be advanced into the incubation phase.

AccLabGM will likely re-visit the interest in biochar production given the number of proposals it featured in, and its potential for income generation. It would perhaps be the most viable way to address data we obtained from the pre-Hackathon survey, which revealed that 80 percent of the participants indicated that their income fell short of meeting at least one form of household need i.e. food provisions, healthcare costs, transportation, communication and electricity needs.

3D printing will surely not solve all the challenges raised by youth at the hackathon event, but it does offer one viable way to tackle a pressing issue in The Gambia. The introduction of technology in waste management will not solve the waste problems of The Gambia, but it can reveal newer ways of tackling the problem that can be more efficient. The youth of The Gambia possess significant talent that must be harnessed if we are to further map potential solutions to our shared challenges. As long as it is around, AccLabGM will continue to engage and challenge them so that we can indeed build a more sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.

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