An Automated Handwasher


(MENAFN- The Post)

ROMA – WHEN Covid-19 hit, National University of Lesotho (NUL) lecturers, Seforo Mohlalisi and Thabo Koetje, had an idea.

The NUL Innovation Hub researchers created a tiny washing unit that would sense your hands and throw water towards them to wash without touching the tap.

It was not a new idea but it was needed with urgency.

The bigger version of the idea is now installed in nine Lesotho institutions.

Covid-19 was creating chaos and the two had to join worldwide armies of scientists to keep it in check.

That meant tripling prevention methods such as proper hand washing.

The story of a small washing station they created was covered on this page back then.

It went viral as it came during the worst days of Covid-19 in Lesotho.

This is how it sounded:“This brilliant Corona Hygiene Bucket uses technology to ensure that you don't touch anything — while washing your hands — to reduce chances of catching coronavirus.

The bucket has no tap — a potential virus surface. It automatically senses your hands and showers them with water.

Its development has just been completed by Seforo Mohlalisi and Thabo Koetje, two National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub Electronic Engineers, together with their students, Stephen Monyamane and Zandile Mkuzo.”

A video accompanying the bucket was released.

Someone was watching.

“We received a call from the Ministry of Health,” Koetje said.

It came from Tebello Kolobe and Pheello Phera, hygiene specialists in the Ministry.

The Ministry wanted the lecturers' help and a meeting was quickly arranged.

Present in the meeting were representatives from the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), which was willing to fund proper hand washing initiatives.

The Ministry of Health unit called WASH and HYGIENE was already installing manual hand washing stations in schools.

The manual stations were pushed with feet to release water stored in buckets for washing.

The idea behind these stations was so you don't touch any surface after washing your hands because viruses and bacteria gather there and might make the just-completed hand washing less useful.

But the hastily assembled manual stations were either wearing off or jamming too quickly.

The fact that they were being used by“playful” children didn't help.

Later, the NUL lecturers, along with other interested teams, were invited to submit better solutions to UNICEF.

They did and they received financing.

“We got M500, 000 in funding and we were ready to assist,” Mohlalisi said.

“Our challenge was to erect stations that had several parts working together.”

Whenever possible, a number of components were made from scratch.

Their solution came in three packages with the help of overall designs by Thapelo Moeti.

The first was a large station.

This is how it works.

Children approach the hand washing station that may have four to five taps.

Only one of the taps has a sensor.

As soon as one of the children puts her hands under the first tap with a sensor, water rushes out.

But it doesn't only come out through the tap that has a sensor.

Rather it comes out through the other four taps with no sensors.

Thus multiple hand washing processes happen at the same time.

If there are few children, there is no need to open the other four taps to save water.

The water used for washing is stored in a big elevated tank.

It is then piped from the tank and warmed using a solar geyser.

It is said that the warmer the water, the more effective it is in clearing off germs.

Once the water is heated, it is then pumped into the taps.

However, remember it comes to the taps only if the sensor at the tap detects a hand.

The sensing and pumping systems need power.

The idea is to use as much of the sun's energy as possible.

So solar panels are used to power the systems.

However, the station is also connected to electricity.

Part of the interesting work was to ensure that the station could switch easily between solar and electricity.

If there is no electricity, the solar takes over, automatically.

If there is no solar, electricity takes over, depending on which one is given a priority by the design.

The whole thing involved a lot of skills including electronics, plumbing and machining.

The second version is called the medium station.

It works much like the large station but without a solar geyser.

The third station is a small station.

The station is connected directly to municipal flowing water.

It is run on normal electricity or batteries.

It can even be used in homes.

Here are the lucky institutions that benefit from the stations: (1) Lesia Primary and High Schools, (2) Mazenod High School (3) Ha Raboletse Secondary School (they had neither running water nor electricity (4) National University of Lesotho International School (NULIS), (5) Senkatana Clinic, (6) Khubetsoana Clinic, (7) St Joseph's Clinic, Ha Abia, (Maseru Central Charge Office and (9) God's Love Centre, a Centre for vulnerable children.

Covid-19 may or may never go but the stations will remain.

“We need them way beyond Covid-19,” the NUL lecturers said.

That is because, they said, good hygiene is always a great idea, Covid or no Covid.

Own Correspondent

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