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Form Four graduate designs blocks machine

A man makes blocks using the hydraulic powered machine. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI
A man makes blocks using the hydraulic powered machine. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI  

Maxwell Omondi ended his formal education at  Form Four. He lives in the Gem in Siaya County, but he is a busy man.

In 2012 after he designed an electronic tamper-proof voting machine which is now in the custody of Innovate Kenya after he donated the machine and the idea to the State agency.

Before then, he made various electronic appliances among them power backups, inverters, security systems and Light Emitting Diode (LED) designs.

Contrary to his expectations, the device (electronic tamper proof voting machine) which he then described as the “cure” to election irregularities failed to give him breakthrough since no one came forth to support his idea.

But he says it motivated him to keep up with his innovative work.

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“Among all innovation that I had done before, the election machine was my greatest but unlike my anticipation that it would sell me out there, it did not because I did not get any support. It however, gave me the motivation to keep on working,” he says.

Today, at 26, the budding innovator is the talk of his Yala hometown as well as Kisumu’s Mamboleo for designing a hydraulic powered block making machine.

The machine can produce up to 5,000 blocks a day, says the former Kisumu Boys Secondary School student who runs Oakyard Enterprises at Mamboleo.
He is  now assembling the fifth such machine.

His visit to a brick-making site gave him the idea of coming up with the machine.

“I always call it a miracle to some extent. One day, a friend of mine introduced me to a person who owned a tiny brick making machine in Mumias and asked if I could do the very same machine I had just seen.”

While the current hydraulic block making machine in Mamboleo is capable of producing up to 5,000 blocks a day, the first one was of low-grade as it could only produce about 600 blocks a day.

He attributes the massive upgrade to extensive research, noting that it is never a walk in the park.

To put up the machine to completion, the innovator says he spend Sh2.5 million, saying the cost of construction is a major hurdle.

He makes the machines on order. “Many people get shocked on learning that while I am the person behind this machine, I do not have one of my own. All is because its construction is too costly which is why I build it on contract to clients who can afford to fund it,’’ said Mr Omondi.

The block making process begins in the mortar where quarry dust, sand, cement and water are mixed in specified ratios.

Workers at the Yala site praises the machine, noting that not only is it less time consuming, but it is also not labour-intensive with blocks made from it being of higher quality than the ones made manually.

“To produce 10 blocks in a span of 40 seconds is totally incredible because manually it will consume you about three minutes to make two. The machine also requires few people to operate it; it does most of the work,” said George Odhiambo, a worker at the site.

The young innovator is, however, dejected despite all the glory that he is enjoying courtesy of his innovation.

He fears that just like the idea behind the election machine disappeared in the thin air, the same fate might befall the hydraulic block-making machine if he does not get the relevant support.

He decries lack of a working yard and high tech working equipment, noting that they were derailing him in his cause to establish a “place” for himself in the society through his innovation work.

“Currently I am mobile because I do not have a working yard. It compels me to work from people’s sites, which is not a wise idea because it fringes me on my research work. The machines I am using are also obsolete which lowers the pace of my work,” says a disturbed Mr Omondi.

According to him, while a similar machine from China cost about Sh4.5 million in the market, he is forced to sell his at throw-away price due to frustrations and poor marketing.

He, however, did not reveal the prices of his machines.

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