How to innovate and win tech awards

Hello there. Have you entered into competitions every now and then but never won? Do you ever feel that your idea was not good enough even though your implementation was awesome? That is probably why you are not winning. Do you want to change your luck forever? Do you want to win next year’s Imagine Cup and ACIA awards? Really? Well then my good friend, read on. After years of Kung Fu training, sniffing through¬†CIA intelligence, fasting and idling on tech blogs and news sites, I have finally unlocked the secret to “innovating” for awards. We are going to come up with an award winning tech innovation in less than 1 hour. But before we start, let’s get some guidelines that will help us along the way.

  1. Thou shalt NOT think outside of the medical field
  2. Thou shalt NOT research NOR work on the implementation
  3. Thou shalt make use of a smartphone (because of course!!!)

Okay folks, now that we have our rules all set we can begin “innovating”. But first let me grab a cup of coffee. Oh my stomach! Jesus I was just from the bathroom a few minutes ago. Okay I am back and I think I have my idea. So I was in the john and I got to think — hardly — if there was a way to diagnose diarrhea. See? We could save millions of lives of people with smartphones could be able to tell irregular bowel movements before it gets to the pants. Let’s all have a moment of silence for this light bulb florescent moment! First off we need to make sure it’s non-intrusive diagnosis. A simple way is to acquire audio signals from the lower abdomen. For this we need an electret mic with a pre-amp. There is this one on SparkFun. Now we connect it to the 3.5mm jack pinout on the smartphone. For portability we shall fit the mic on a belly belt. I couldn’t find an appropriate one for all sexes on Amazon but I hope we can design one. The next stage is of course writing our android application. Let’s keep it simple. Remember rule number 1? Yes that’s right, we must not overdo anything because that may mean we risk losing to some guy who has done less. Okay so once someone has tied our belt and started out app, it shall bring a form that asks a couple of questions and then run an “algorithm” in the background to¬†assess your weather conditions. home page Ladies and gentlemen! We have an award winning innovation. Now let’s just apply for Imagine Cup, ACIA and Orange Community Innovations Awards! Please let me know if there are any other awards I can apply for.

PS: APK for Android devices to come soon.

Update: I lost this APK and source code. I’m working on another and I’ll make sure it gets to the Playstore this time around

Evolution of a rigid developer

David thinks I am the most rigid developer that has ever existed since The Big Bang. It doesn’t matter though because he’s wrong. I know a developer who is more rigid – my dad calls him Fundi. I have never known his real names but whenever we need some modifications on structures at home, he’s on call. In all the years I have known Fundi, he never has changed his tools. I don’t know whether his profession calls for this kind of rigid practice. Even professional courtesy would run off course when the tools you use no longer apply to certain tasks efficiently. Yes, I do realize Fundi is a different kind of developer.

Fundi aside, David is kinda right. I am one of those developers who believe so much in what works. I cannot explain this irregularity given the fact that I have always had itchy fingers for breaking stuff that works. Over the years I have come to limit my development environment for both hardware and software projects. I code in C/C++ and PHP almost always. I do not use IDEs for software projects and have never made any attempt at versioning or source code management. Want a website or web application? I fire up Notepad++ and get down to business with PHP. Wanna mess around with embedded systems? I fire up Notepad++ and get down to business with C or C++. The only times I have used IDEs are when working with Arduino (not a fan) and PIC microcontrollers. I use MPLAB for PICs. I was getting so comfortable till crap hit the fan.

At Makerere University I am part of an ambitious project to integrate internet laboratories into the engineering curriculum. It’s called the [email protected] project, in collaboration with Obafemi-Alawale University, MIT and University of Dar es Salaam. I have been looking into rebuilding the iLabs system from scratch on open source tools. I need a tool that can communicate comfortably with USB devices and has great support for web applications. In marched Python. This coincides with my final year project which is a low cost robotic platform for engineering research and remote labs. I plan to embedded Linux running on Raspberry Pi for the core computing. So I have learnt Python…


Learning Python changed my outlook on things a lot. I have started opening up to stuff like new database systems, SSH and more recently Git. I love Git. I can’t explain the euphoria that fills my abode whenever I make a commit and a push. To know that all my changes are being logged makes me feel secure. I guess I never knew what I would feel like and would never hadn’t I tried it. Life is so much easier with Git. SSH is also changing the way I work on remote projects that don’t necessarily call for Git.

I still haven’t opened up to the idea of making my code open. Till then, Github is no place for me…