Necessity, the mother of innovation

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Nguyen Tien Hoang (L) and his paralyzed father sit next to a tiny wind power lighting system that he made to help him study through regular outages

Nguyen Tien Hoang does not stop doing his homework in the evening in case of a power cut, a common occurrence in the dry season in the southern Binh Phuoc Province.

Hoang's family is poor and they cannot afford a generator, but the ten-grader has fashioned a mini-windmill from discarded materials that generates just enough power for a lamp that he can use.

"I thought about making such system during the last dry season when I couldn't do my homework because of frequent power blackouts at night," he said.

His small windmill is a simple affair - four revolving blades made with steel plates, two pinions, a used dynamo from a bicycle that he got from a local bike repair shop and some electric wire.

 "I am thinking about improving the system by making a box for the pillions and oiling them," he said, adding that he planned to bring his contraption to the national youth invention competition this year.

Hoang's father was paralyzed by an accident in 2001. Father and son live with a relative.

The bright student, who gets a discount on fees at school, has already won prizes at several provincial and national competitions for his innovations, including a machine to cut cassava and woodboards made from cassava stems. Hoang said he worked on cassava because it is easily available in rural Binh Phuoc.

Hoang, who is also a talented painter, wants to become an architect when he grows up. "I bought materials to make the small wind-power system with money I earned from painting propaganda cartoons for local authorities," he said.

Biking on water

In the central province of Thua Thien-Hue, three 11th graders of Nguyen Hue School have made a bicycle that doubles up as a riding raft, a very useful machine considering the central region is regularly hit by floods.

Their special bike fetched Cao Thanh Dong, Huynh Ngoc Hai and Nguyen Thanh Nguyen the second prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair held in the province in January.

"Floods are common in Hue. Students find it difficult to ride their bikes to school on flooded road sections. Our bicycle is ideal for them in rainy season," Dong said.

Dong discussed his idea of a floating bike with Hai and Nguyen and the three decided to make it, with buoys on both sides of each wheel. The front wheel acts as a rudder with blades covering spokes.

After tests in swimming pools and the Huong (Perfume) River and several modifications, the team finally had a bicycle that could be ridden steadily and smoothly on water surfaces.

"We are looking to use lighter materials for the buoys and other parts to make the bike lighter," Nguyen said, adding that they are also planning to improve the bike's loading capacity from 80 to 120 kilograms.

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