Eye Owl Tech, a team of three young creatives from the French South African Schneider Electric Education Centre (F’SASEC), based at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT), has won the Low-Tech Innovation Competition run by Schneider Electric South Africa.

The competition was run in partnership with Nomade des Mers and was open to science & technology students from F’SASEC and the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre.

The winning team, comprising of Luvo Dubula, Clayton Martins and Lafras Magabe, showcased a working prototype of an LED-light called the Flip-Lamp – a sand bottle with a pulley system inside a PVC pipe, connected to an LED light and powered by a repurposed microwave motor.

Most of the materials the team used were recycled, including wires, LEDs, plastic bottles, nails, tape, straws, foil, sandpaper and parts from a microwave that had been discarded.

The Low-Technology Innovation competition focuses on simple Do It Yourself (DIY) solutions and easily available materials to meet everyday energy needs, in line with Schneider Electric's focus on energy management.

An estimated 3.4 million South African households lack access to electricity, and the Low Tech Challenge is encouraging energy innovation as part of an effort to solve Africa’s fuel-based lighting challenge.

The low-tech innovations from the students will go a long way towards solving the problems faced by South Africans and others around the world today. Many homes in the informal settlements and rural areas still using fuel-based lighting solutions including candles and kerosene lamps.

The students, in teams of up to three members each, were challenged to create a low-cost, low-tech environmentally friendly innovation using natural, recycled, used or new components to provide a lighting solution. The winners got €500, and second and third place winners walked away with prize money to the value of €300 and €200 respectively.

The students were given an hour and a half to assemble their low-tech lighting solution and showcase how it works. To emphasise the innovation premise of the competition the teams had to utilise their own tools and resources to assemble their innovations at the competition – with limited use of new materials in order to keep costs low and to ensure that the resources are easily accessible in all locations globally.

“Access to energy is a basic human right", Ernie Smith, Schneider Electric South Africa's Vice President of Partner Business says. "Everyone on our planet should have access to safe, reliable, efficient and sustainable energy, and this competition is one way to achieve this ideology. We are excited by the response by the students, and their determination to be part of the solution to the pervasive energy problem, because with such passion, access to energy to all will become a reality sooner rather than later."

VUT was the ideal location for the low-tech innovation competition, as they are the only university in South Africa with a science and technology park. The innovations from the competition could go beyond prototypes to possible commercialisation.

“It is often very easy to go for high-tech options but in a world where we need to think carefully about our impact on the environment – surely low-tech solutions are a viable option", Luvo Dubula, one of the winning students said.

It is encouraging that South Africa is not short of out-of-the-box thinkers, and there are plenty of low-tech innovations. This is a clear demonstration that no problem is bigger than our capacity to solve, as long as we apply ourselves. The young people demonstrated that low-tech, innovative solutions can meet the basic needs of our people.Zanelle Dalglish, Sustainable Development & Electricians Manager at Schneider Electric

This competition comes at a critical phase of the COP22 taking place in Marrakesh, Morocco. Promoting energy efficiency, Schneider Electric adds, will go a long way in achieving the COP objectives thus making our world a better place.

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