MAK Students Innovation to Curb Public Smoking

FDC strongman, for sale Dr Kizza Besigye has described as a big milestone, the new alliance formed by opposition political parties in the country.

On Wednesday morning opposition political parties unveiled ‘The Democratic Alliance’ a platform  where they  are set to front joint candidates in the forthcoming general elections in a bid to unseat the current NRM government.

Speaking at the function held at Hotel African in Kampala, Besigye said that the alliance comes at a time when the country is facing a challenge of leadership at all levels.

He said Ugandans leaders think they are bigger and mightier than the people they lead.

“We have a leadership problem at all levels and positions – be it in the church where the leaders consider themselves as being special leaving out the common good which is the people,” said Besigye.

“The new alliance is therefore a big milestone as all parties have come together for the common goal and I am now sure hope is coming,” Besigye said.

According to the opposition strongman, Uganda’s problems stem from the colonialists’ divisive reign but quickly that “it’s high time the people did something as far as solving their own problems is concerned.”

Opposition leaders show unity to challenge the NRM government in the 2016 general elections
Opposition leaders show unity to challenge the NRM government in the 2016 general elections

Besigye said there is need for reforms which would help the country start moving in the right direction.


“The next thing we should do is not letting Ugandans down. We should not go to elections before the desired electoral reforms are put in place,” he advised.

“It’s good almost all political parties have come together for the alliance but it’s high time we made sure all the desired reforms are put in place before the elections.”
A group of 4 students at Makerere University have developed a system intended to detect and curb down smoking in public places.

John Paul Nuwe, more about Ester Nambalilwa, page Francis Kisakyabayima and Amos Bangirana are all finalists of Computer Science at the College of Computing and Informatics. The group exhibited their prototype at Uganda’s celebrations of World No Tobacco Day organized by Ministry of Health last month.

John Paul Nuwe who is the group leader in this project told Chimpreports that his previous participation in tobacco control campaigns inspired idea of the smoke detector.

The group had worked with Dr. Prosy Mugyenyi a renowned advocate for tobacco control. As scholars of ICT, medicine they thought of ways to integrate I.T with their advocacy against tobacco use.

The group had initially planned to develop an Application but later thought it would be a limitation to those without compatible phones. They noticed there had been a gap in the enforcement policy regarding public smoking on which they capitalized.

How it works

The system is installed in a given room and is programmed to trigger an alarm when someone in that room smokes tobacco components. The system comprises of 2 sensors that contain gaseous components mainly buttane and carbonmonoxide.

The system is powered by a laptop through a USB cable
The system is powered by a laptop through a USB cable

These two gases are the major components in cigarettes. The sensors are built to link with a signal that triggers a buzzer once they have detected the gases.

The buzzer then triggers the GM control and a phone call is made to a central simcard (to the person in charge of the facility). The detector has an inbuilt sim card loaded full time with airtime to enable it to process calls.

Detector simcards are named according to rooms in which they are installed to easily identify which room the smoker is in.

When the person-in-charge receives the call, he/she will then know which room raised the signal given that the simcard numbers are saved in accordance to rooms.

The detector is designed to be powered through a USB cable but Nuwe says they plan to modify it more so that it can be rechargeable.

Financial cost

Nuwe says the project cost them around UGshs 600,000. Some of the parts were purchased from abroad since they never wanted to take chances by using the untrusted ones on the local market.

Asked how much this detector will cost for buyers once it’s completed, Nuwe places no specific price but gives a rage of Ugshs 300,000 and 400,000. This is because the prototype is still undergoing developments and modification.

Purchasing these system components in bulk will bring the detector price relatively down.

Have innovators been helped enough?

A rather disgruntled Nuwe has no kind words for the government. He mentions that not much has been done to help young people that have created a number of innovations.

“Students invest much time on such projects but they are never taken serious”

Nuwe adds that organizing exhibitions and awards to recognize innovators doesn’t help these projects in the long term. These are one day events that he refers to as ‘just showbiz’

The mode of teaching at university level is also too theoretical than practical. All that lecturers do is pile students with loads of slides in form of assignments.

He goes on to say that internship which would have been students’ only chance to get hands-on knowledge has lost relevance. Companies that take on interns end up sidelining them by subjecting them to only data entry. Much as data entry is part of IT but Nuwe says it largely limits a student doing say Computer Science.

At some point, the young innovator regrets ever enrolling to Makerere University to do a course at an expensive cost but with less practical skills. He would rather have done several short certified courses in his field of study elsewhere.

Long term dream for this project

Nuwe dreams to see a smoke free environment in future but he notes that the Tobacco Bill must first be passed since it’s like the backborne of this cause.

He also longs for a time when all public places (schools, hospitals, shopping malls etc) will have these smoke detectors installed.

Individual responsibility to not smoke in public is another aspect that this project aims to achieve.

The assistance needed

The system still needs more sensors (for tobacco gaseous components) to narrow down its detection to not every smoke but tobacco smoke.

Nuwe says the group is still faced with a challenge of assembling the system in one small unit.

The project also requires support from telecom companies since its operation essentially relies on simcards and making telephone calls.

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