Three African Inventors, Including One Kenyan, Take First in Global Competition for Social Purpose

Three African Inventors, Including One Kenyan, Take First in Global Competition for Social Purpose

For Immediate Release

Malaria Diagnosis, Science Education, and Sign Language Translation Solutions Earn Share of $500,000 Prize in ASME Innovation Showcase (ISHOW)

Nairobi, 31 May, 2017 – Last week in Nairobi, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the world’s largest organization for mechanical engineers, judged ten social-driven hardware designs in its prestigious 2017 ASME Innovation Showcase (ISHOW) competition. Of the ten finalists, three African inventors – one each from Uganda, Ghana, and Kenya – took home the Grand Prize in this second of three regional showcase events.

ISHOW was created to help entrepreneurs focused on hardware-led social innovations scale their solution to markets in need. A link to the winning designs and descriptions follows:

The regional Grand Prize winners included:

  • Brian Gitta(Uganda) –Matibabu(see video) is a noninvasive device used to test for Malaria. It uses custom-made hardware connected to a smartphone to aid easy diagnosis within households.
  • Charles Antipem(Ghana) –Science Set is an affordable, portable, practical and highly scalable science lab that can fit in the bag and on the desk of students.
  • Roy Allela(Kenya) –Sign-iois a sign language to speech translation glove developed to address language barriers between sign language users and the general public.

While death rates have fallen steadily over the past 15 years, malaria remains a significant life-threatening disease, and nearly half of the world’s population continues to be at risk, according to the World Health Organization. By offering a cost-effective, early detection, non-invasive hardware solution, Matibabu helps reduce the number of people affected and mitigates the severity of their symptoms, while cutting down the length of treatment and amount of medication needed.

The Matibabu Team (center) accepts their 3D-printed trophy from LR Kamau Gachigi (left; CEO, Gearbox), Judge June Madete (second from right; biomechanics engineer, researcher and senior lecturer at Kenyatta University), and Paul Scott (right; Director, ASME ISHOW). Photo courtesy of Marilyn Parker.
Science Set’s Charles Antipem is passionate about revolutionizing education in Ghana and across Africa while dispelling the notion that science is difficult and boring. He hopes to make this happen by putting an affordable and accessible mini science lab in every student’s schoolbag.
Science Set’s Charles Antipem (center) receives his trophy from LR Kamau Gachigi (left; CEO, Gearbox), ASME Past President John Parker (second from right), and Paul Scott (right; Director, ASME ISHOW). Photo courtesy of Marilyn Parker.
More than 30 million people around the globe have speech impairments and must rely on sign language, which poses a language barrier when seeking to communicate with non-sign language users. Sign-io’s sign language to speech translation glove recognizes various letters signed by sign language users and transmits this data to an Android application where it is vocalized.

Sign-io’s Founder Roy Allela (center) accepts his trophy from LR Kamau Gachigi (left; CEO, Gearbox), Dr. Robert Karanja (second from right; CEO, Villgro Kenya), and Paul Scott (right; Director, ASME ISHOW). Photo courtesy of Marilyn Parker.
ASME’s esteemed panel of judges was vastly impressed by Matibabu, Science Set, and Sign-io’s innovative and globally scalable solutions to enhance quality of life for populations in need. 

“The unique solutions of our three African winners will radically transform and elevate the way their beneficiaries live, allowing them to thrive in ways that were previously impossible,” said K. Keith Roe, president of ASME. “Their display of creativity and ingenuity, and that of their peers, fully embodies the spirit of the ISHOW and exemplifies the potential of tomorrow’s engineering problem-solvers and business leaders.”

Brian Gitta, Charles Antipem, and Roy Allela will share $500,000 in cash and in-kind prizes, along with three other winners in Bangalore, India last April, and three more in Washington, DC over the coming weeks.

The winners are among ten socially-minded hardware entrepreneurs who were selected among 150 applicants as finalists of the event, held 25 May at the Golden Tulip Westlands Nairobi Hotel, to present a range of devices designed to make a transformational economic, environmental, and social impact. During the competition, the finalists appeared before a panel of judges, including successful entrepreneurs, academics, and founders of venture-funded startup companies, to pitch the engineering design attributes of their prototypes and outline their plans for manufacturing, implementation, marketing, and financing.

“ASME congratulates and thanks all our winners and finalists for serving as catalysts of change and social good,” noted Roe. “By constantly seeking to innovate and disrupt the status quo, they are making a measurable difference for people around the world today and for generations to come.” 

For more information about this year’s ISHOW participants and winners, please visit:

About ASME
ASME helps the global engineering community develop solutions to real world challenges.  Founded in 1880 as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME is a not-for-profit professional organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing and skill development across all engineering disciplines, while promoting the vital role of the engineer in society.  ASME codes and standards, publications, conferences, continuing education and professional development programs provide a foundation for advancing technical knowledge and a safer world.  For more information, visit

Deborah Wetzel
Media Relations Manager
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers

Peter Himler
Flatiron Communications LLC (for ASME)
Google Voice: 1-516-308-1120
Twitter: @peterhimler

Isabelle Jetté
McPherson Strategies (for ASME)
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