Weeding robot earns JKUAT students Sh1.6m

31st May, 2020
Weeding robot earns JKUAT students Sh1.6m
Michael Mwaisakenyi and Kenneth Gichira explain how the weeding bot works. [James Wanzala, Standard]

Two students, Michael Mwaisakenyi and Kenneth Gichira, from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology are the regional winners of the 18th annual Imagine Cup Competition.

The competition saw thousands of students across the world submit innovations that impact the communities they live in.

Six teams were selected to move forward to the World Championship and present their projects to compete for the 2020 trophy on the biggest stage yet — the Microsoft Build digital event.

The winning team, The Knights from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, created an automated robot using artificial intelligence to identify and remove weeds from rows of crops.

Their solution uses cameras as sensors to gather input from the environment and eliminate farmers’ need to use environmentally harmful pesticides in their weeding.

As part of winning the regional finals, the team won $8,000 (Sh800,000) each. Prizes also included Azure credits and a spot in the Imagine Cup World Championship event.

“Imagine Cup has always aimed to empower students to use their imagination and passion for technology to develop innovative and inclusive solutions that tackle key societal issues. This aligns directly with Microsoft ongoing commitment to providing students with the necessary resources and platforms to hone and grow their skills.

With an increasing focus on bringing the world together digitally, we’re continuously encouraged by the projects young developers create to make a difference. We are also extremely proud of The Knights, who by making it to the championship event, have reaffirmed Kenya and Africa’s immense potential to create solutions that directly address socio-economic needs within industries such as the agricultural sector,” said Kendi Nderitu, country manager for Microsoft in Kenya.

Held in virtual format this year in light of the health safety recommendations, World Finalists pitched their projects during Microsoft Build’s inaugural digital event.

This year the event was judged by innovation experts spanning a variety of technology, diversity, and social change-centred experiences. 

Across her extensive career as a tech innovator and leader, Dwana Franklin-Davis, CEO of Reboot Representation, has worked to empower underrepresented groups in technology.

“We are thrilled and look forward to future updates surrounding these innovations. At the same time, we are also encouraged by the sheer talent of all this year’s finalists who clearly put a lot of thought behind their unique tech innovations. As we continue to navigate through the Fourth Industrial Revolution, particularly in such uncertain times, I am confident we will continue to see innovations from young bright minds not only in Africa, but the world over,” said Nderitu.

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