In Eritrea seeing young people trying to renovate, invent and work hard for the benefit of all is not uncommon. Bereket Gebrekidan, Robel Kibrom, Biniam Gersin, Luwam Haile and Elsa Iassu are seniors in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the May Nefhi Istitute of Technology. Nicknamed “The Real Engineers” by their teachers for their hard work and dedication, this group of college students came up with the idea – the Extraction of Fuel from Moulds – for their senior year project. They had the opportunity to present their project to visitors at the Eritrea Festival 2015. Following is a brief conversation with one of the promising young engineers, Bereket Gebrekidan:
Tell us first about the project.
What we wanted to show was that fuel can be extracted, and at very affordable prices, from natural resources that are readily available in our surroundings.
And how did you come up with the idea in the first place?
The idea originally came from some members of our group who were assigned to Segen Construction Company as internees.
After discussing it, we browsed the web for additional information. We were trying to come up with a way of utilizing the unnecessary molds in lakes and ponds across the country, and convert it to fuel, thereby creating a kind of biogas that would serve as an alternate for our country’s subsidized supply of fuel. Our experiment was successful.
What about the quality of your product? Does it meet the desired standards?
We have the Eritrean Standards Institute (ESI) in our country and we worked in close collaboration with members of this institute. And we met all the desired standards.
Is it really practical though? Or you were just experimenting?
Our objectives were twofold: to alleviate the energy crisis and help create a pollution-free country or world for that matter. Our product is smokeless and can be used for anything that runs on fuel.
What about the mold? Can it be found anywhere anytime?
That was actually one of our biggest challenges. It can’t be found anytime because it is seasonal. But if we are saying we are going to produce fuel that can last us a year for instance, then we have to make sure we have adequate supply of that mold. So we thought of trying to produce it ourselves but we found out that for that to happen, we would need lot of carbon dioxide.
Importing carbon dioxide wouldn’t go with our budget or capacity so we concluded on using the residue (waste) from burned fuel and process it. We found similar researches at the Marine College, which helped us, secure the carbon dioxide we desired.
And what feedback did you get from the ESI or other government or nongovernmental bodies?
So far we’ve presented our project only to the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of Trade and Industry. And we are waiting to hear from them on what we can do further.
So you are very optimistic that your product can solve the fuel problems of our country?
Absolutely! If our plant goes operational, our energy problems will be completely alleviated.
Earlier you said that your project aims to tackle the global energy crisis. Do you mean to tell me that this experiment has never been performed before elsewhere?
Many universities around the world have conducted researches on the subject. And even though some products have been tested in laboratories and passed, so far they haven’t been put into use. We may have adopted some ideas but what we have prepared was purely indigenous to our country and our resources, and our creativity of course.
What was the reaction of the visitors to the festival?
The President and different ministers saw our presentation and the President gave us encouraging comments. And so did the Minster of Energy and Mines. Concerned officials from the Technical Services also came and took necessary information.
In relation to your work, how would you evaluate the situation of the Eritrean youth in regard to innovations?
The creativity and resourcefulness of our youth is in place. What I think lacks decisively is however the incentive and recognition. You incur tremendously high expenses to realize a project and if your work doesn’t generate any income in return, you get discouraged and the enthusiasm to work more and harder decreases. If this was to be solved, I think the number of our innovators would definitely rise.
Anything you want to add…
Like I said, everything that is being invented or innovated comes at the intellectual price of the youth. So there needs to be an institution that not only looks after and gives value to these intellectual products, but also encourages the innovators and provides guidance.