Meet Samuel

Full name: Samuel Murekefu

Age: 27 on Friday (on the date of interview)

Studied: Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nairobi

Job: Mechanical Design Engineer at Burn Engineering for 13 months.

As it’s your birthday on Friday, how are you going to celebrate?

I’m going to Kereita National Park camping with friends for the weekend.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Physics and maths.

What languages do you speak?

Swahili, english, and I lost interest in French after primary school as there aren’t many people to practice with.

What is your favourite animal?

A dog.

What is your favourite food?

Fried pork.

Tell us more about your current job

I’ve been a Mechanical Design Engineer at Burn for 13 months. I mostly make Computer Aided Deisgn (CAD) drawings and prototypes to test new products, but I also create everything from tooling through to designing parts for production. My current focus is to look at all of the ways to reduce the cost of the Jikokoa stove to enable far more people to afford it. The more parts there are then the more different tools are required, and the more assembly operations there are as well.

One major design change I’ve made is to change the base so that it’s a single moulded part rather than a 4 separate parts, and I’ve also redesigned the handles so that instead of a seven-stage process it can now be a two-stage process with a formed handle coated with insulating enamel. The moulded feet also allow the jikos to stack and interlock – so we don’t need to sell them with boxes – it’s an interesting thing in Africa – people usually want you to show them that the product works so you find they don’t actually want a box.

“Problem solving is just such a useful life skill and, alongside being able to design things, it’s really fulfilling to know that you can solve so many problems by putting your brain to work.”

What did you study?

I studued Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nairobi. I wanted to get as much practical experience as possible alongside my studies so I also worked at FabLab from my 2nd to 5th years designing several medical products with my lecturer. We created a phototherapy unit to treat jaundiced babies at Kenyatta National Hospital, it was a scary experience being an engineer in a maternity unit, but it was also fun to think of a problem and know that you can solve it. Problem solving is just such a useful life skill and, alongside being able to design things, it’s really fulfilling to know that you can solve so many problems by putting your brain to work. It’s comforting to know that you aren’t totally dependant.

Is there a quote which inspires you?

My school principal used to remind us that if something is hard, but it’s been done before, then you know you can do it too.

What are your hobbies?

I love cycling, thinking about cycling, talking about cycling. I’m going on a 120km cycling trip to the Machakos area to raise money for an orphanage. It’s an epic route with almost 2,000m elevation gain over 5 hours. I also design things in my spare time – I have created a solar hot water system at my parents house.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a bus driver, I always loved how engines sounded, then I realised that it was more to do with engineering.

What has been your coolest achievement?

I cycled from Nairobi to Tanzania and back, it was over 280 kilometres and took three hours there and four hours back.

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