Built in Africa: Meet the young African scientists and engineers competing at Intel’s ISEF


Built in Africa focuses on entrepreneurs, startups and technologies that hail from the continent and empower its citizens.

Touted as the world’s largest international pre-university science competition, Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) provides a platform for young innovators to create, invent and reinvent in the field of science and engineering and hopefully change the world.

Annually the competition brings together more than 1 700 high school students from over 70 countries, regions, and territories to showcase their independent research and compete for more than US$5-million in awards.

The competition begins with local and school-sponsored science fairs, with the winners then going on to participate in Intel ISEF-affiliated regional and state fairs. From there, the best win the opportunity to attend Intel ISEF.

The competition gives students the opportunity to have their work judged and discussed by doctoral level scientists and Nobel laureates. The 2014 edition of ISEF sees 1 300 students from more than 70 countries between the ages of 14 and 18 showing off experiments they hope will change the world.

This year, 29 Africa teams from five countries will be participating with projects that range from alternative energy sources, immunotherapy, voice recognition, pest control and aids for the visually impaired. It will also mark the first time that Kenya has participated in the competition with two teams.

In this, our seventh instalment of our “Built in Africa” series, we take a look at how Africa’s best and brightest inspiring the world with their creations at ISEF.


  • Computational Prediction of Vaccine Potential Epitopes and 3D Structure of XAGE-1b for Non-small Cell Lung Cancer Immunotherapy — this project is hoping to use existing research to find an anti-cancer medication.
  • Eye Detection and Tracking-Based Communication System for Tetraplegia Patients — this system hopes to offer a new portable, wireless, rechargeable and low-cost communication system that will help tetraplegia patients communicate better.
  • Voice Recognition Based Elections Voting System for Blind — this project hopes to create a voice recognition system that will allow the blind to be able to vote.
  • G-14: A New Kind of Multi-rotors — this project is hoping to build a smarter, faster and more versatile electric aircraft.
  • High-performance Solar Thermoelectric Energy Conversion System with Efficient Thermal Concentration — this research aims to design, fabricate and investigate a more promising, cost effective, and highly efficient Solar Thermoelectric Generator (STEG) based on the Seebeck effect.
  • Water Integrated Desalination System using Graphene Sheets and Silver Nano Particles — this project wants to find more efficient ways to produce water for drought prone areas.
  • Heating Houses Using a Friction-Based Heating System that Employs Renewable Energy Sources — this project wants to find a new way of heat home, through the use of friction to produce a heating system.


  • Biofuel from Tree Fungus — this project aims to identify if it is possible to produce high quality biodiesel that runs engines longer than diesel from the Gliocladium Roseum fungus.
  • Multiple Chemical Generator — this research hopes to develop a model that can be used to reduce pollutants not only in air but also in water as well as in domestic uses in a cost effective way.


  • Traffic Control System for the Blind — this team hopes to make it easier for the blind to cross the road through an automated system that ensure 99% road safety. The team calls it a “talking traffic junction”.
  • Who Says Energy Is Scarce? It Is Everywhere — This project challenges the notion that Nigeria has a lack of power source by providing alternatives.
  • The Nona Piece — the idea for this project is to create multi-purpose furniture that can perform multiple functions in order to solve the problem of room space management.
  • Design and Construction of an Electronic Pest control system — Nigeria has a significant pest problem and this project hopes to solve it through sound waves.
  • Power Failure Solution — this project want to find a solution for Nigeria’s constant power failures.
  • Walnut: Sustainable Solutions to Halitosis — this project wants to tackle bad breath by using chemicals in walnuts.

South Africa

  • Investigation into Whether Teenagers Read Faster and Retain More Information When Tested Using Various Media — this project proved that there is minimal difference between the reading speed of either media in both defined difficulties. However, the tested age group retained more from complex passages in digital and simple passages in print.
  • A Novel Approach to Biometric Identification Using an Iris Scanner — this project hopes to provide an accurate method of identifying a person by making use of the unique random patterning of their iris.
  • Ally: A Novel Approach to Online Password Generation — the idea here is use a series of questions to generate a password that is relevant to users rather random password generation.
  • Using an Underwater Trench to Limit the Energy of a Tsunami — the idea is that if a long, deep trench is dug in the seabed in the direct path of a tsunami then most of the wave’s energy will be lost after it passes over the trench.
  • The Intelligent Energy Saving Power Strip — this device is designed to help people conserve electricity by regulating the power used by secondary appliances.
  • A Vibrating Device to Assist Visually Impaired Athletes — this project looked at creating a device that could help visually impaired athletes to run on their own without guides.
  • Utilizing Pine Cone Briquettes as an Alternative Energy Source — this project is hoping to create an efficient, reliable, low-cost and alternative source of energy from pine cones.
  • Green Algae as a Viable Substrate in a Microbial Fuel Cell — this study investigates the form of green algae (Scenedesmus obliquus) as a viable substrate in Microbial Fuel Cells.
  • Evaluation of Balance Skills in Male Subjects Aged 6-7 Years — The purpose of this investigation was to measure and compare the balance ability of male soccer players and sedentary control subjects between ages 6-7.
  • Utilizing UV-rays to Eradicate Micro-Organisms on Healthcare Workers Cellular Phones to Prevent Cross-Infection — this project wants to make mobile devices more hospital friendly by reducing the risk of infections through pathogens carried by them.
  • Investigating a Relationship between Coronal Mass Ejections and the Solar Sun Spot Cycle — this projects aims to explore the relationship between Coronal Mass Ejections (CME’s) and the Solar Sun Spot Cycle in order to predict future Solar CME activity.


  • A Novel Method for Melanoma Skin Cancer Diagnosis at an Early Stage Using ANN and DNA Analysis — this project is trying to find a way to detect skin cancer at an early stage in order to prevent fatalities.
  • Using Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision in Creating an Operating System for Head-Mounted Displays — this projects wants to build an open source powered device that can run AI and VR apps.
  • Implementation of an FPGA Based Real-time Assistance System for the Blind — this project is hoping to help the blind experience their world better by providing ways to hep them map out their world.



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