Mr. Anthony Muthungu
Founder of TotoSci Academy, AlexKyan, and Jenga Citi
When the inventor Mr. Anthony Muthungu was in Standard Five, his father jokingly told him that the people who they saw on the television were trapped in the machine. He never expected his son to break apart the television to get to the bottom of the mystery. Mr. Muthungu did not find any small people in the carnage of the ruined television but he has been attempting to get answers about how things work ever since.
Indeed, Mr. Muthungu’s curiosity is an integral part of his genius. He admits that anytime he sees any new tech, he always has to test it out and see if its specifications have been accurately represented in company adverts. One could not call his desire to pull things apart and put them together again a passion, instead it seems like an integral part of Mr. Muthungu’s personality. He explains it as constantly “looking for a loophole.”
His work consistently spills into his real life, or maybe his outside life bleeds into his work life. His house is completely automated, he mentions to me offhandedly, where his lights, television and music system are all set to turn on with a voice command. One day, when leaving home, Mr. Muthungu forgot to switch off the main power. Soon, the neighborhood kids were gathering outside his window shouting commands for electricals to turn on and off.
The incident planted the seed of an idea in Mr. Muthungu’s mind: to offer hands on courses in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Computer Science for underprivileged children that would give them actual tools to better understand the sciences and inflame their interest. The program that Mr. Muthungu founded is called TotoSci Academy and they purposefully go to schools attended by children who live in slums or other lower income areas. In Nairobi, many of the children in the Academy courses live in Mathare, and courses in Nyeri are often attended by children from Majengo slum. The Academy works closely with schools to ensure that no important course is canceled and instead ask for one dedicated hour a week of the students’ class schedule.
As TotoSci grows and expands, Mr. Muthungu continues to work on new inventions. When his friend, Alex, became suddenly blind, the wheels in Mr. Muthungu’s mind began whirring with a furious energy. He remembered having to continually check the water level for his parent’s water tank and how they used a proximity sensor that was able to signal when the level of the water was low. He began to consider something similar to help his friend Alex maneuver more easily. Essentially, he created a cane that has proximity sensors that alert both the vision impaired user as well as their carer, if they walk too close to an obstacle. The cane also allows for the user to send a distress signal straight to their carer’s phone. Currently the Alex Cane is being reviewed by the Kenya Society for the Blind for wider implementation.
Mr. Muthungu continues to tinker with small- and large-scale inventions. Now he has a small team behind him who help him work out new ideas and theories and look for additional resources. For him, there is always the burning of curiosity and excitement with a new project and the inevitable ambitious question with the end of another one: What next?
Follow Anthony on Twitter (@Its_Muthungu, LinkedIn (Muthungu K Anthony), Facebook (Hon Muthungu K Anthony)