Last year in December we had a chance to innovate for the unluckiest of beings. We innovated for wildlife, partnering with Wildlife Direct, we gathered experts in different fields – conservationists, community workers, engineers, county administration, Kenya Wildlife Service, community members, and more, and held the “Innovate4wildlife” workshop at Amboseli in a bid to seek innovative solutions towards human-wildlife conflict (HWC).

Participants at the workshop 

Participants at the workshop 

Over the past few years, human interest in farming and livestock keeping has affected the existence of wildlife in their natural sanctuary, and has resulted in frequent HWC with deaths recorded on both sides. Increasing human populations have added more pressure on the limited natural resource land, leading to individuals cultivating on land that has previously been wild animals’ corridors and grazing areas for livestock. The change in lifestyle from pastoralism to more sedentary forms of living has compounded this problem with the otherwise nomadic Pastoralists taking up and fencing huge tracks of land in these areas for farming.

Along with the reducing vegetation cover in the area, this has forced wild animals, especially elephants, giraffes, and others, to invade these farms and feed on farmers’ crops. Thanks to the age-old problem of predators preying on livestock, inhabitants of these areas have been at war with these wild animals, which has resulted in losses to our wildlife resource, losses to farmers, and even death as a result of HWC.

Amboseli ecosystem being the only biosphere in Kenya that human beings and wildlife coexist in the same land with over 75% of the animals living withing the community owned group ranches, has been one of the worst affected with HWC. All it takes is a herd of elephants rumbling through acres of farmland to destroy crops worth millions and a whole year of food for a community. Pastoralist have also been dealing with huge loss of livestock under the mercies of predators such as lions, jackals, hyenas, etc. So, it’s no surprise that the community who were once living peacefully with these animals are resorting to violent ways of protecting their livelihoods and the wild animals are retaliating when attacked.

In this workshop, all energies were geared towards developing innovative, non-violent, low-cost, and low-tech solutions toward HWC that can be taken up and produced by the community as an income earner and help in keeping elephants from wandering into agricultural fields, predators away from bomas, and hence reduce deadly encounters and confrontations with farmers in the Amboseli ecosystem.

All partners on board went through stages of problem solving with a focus on human-centered design; all innovations were to be designed in such a manner that would favor the human in protecting their homes and resources and be harmless to wild animals. Problem identification, persona categorization, research and exploration of different solutions and ideation exercises for prototype making were employed through the workshop, and we developed several prototypes to solve this problem that would later be iterated and refined at Gearbox.

Participants during a fact-finding exercise.

Participants during a fact-finding exercise.

An audio scare crow was among the prototypes developed. Although Elephants are big, the mere buzzing of bees is enough to send a herd running off. The audio played pre-recorded sounds that scared away the elephants and gradually sent the herd away.

Dr. Ciira demonstrating how the audion scarecrow works

Dr. Ciira demonstrating how the audion scarecrow works

We improvised an existing technique of using chili guns to shoot plastic balls filled with chili powder at invading elephants. The guns used before were modified paintball guns which used compressed air canisters and chili balls which were expensive to acquire. Our improvised Chili gun made use of plastic pipes mostly used for irrigation purposes, a foot pump, and 3D printed plastic balls filled with chili, all of which are locally available and performed equally as well as the guns used before. 

Harrison displays how the chili gun works.

Harrison displays how the chili gun works.

The predator alarm sensor wrist band is a prototype that senses heat waves emitted by predators e.g. lions, jackals, and hyenas, then alerts herders to divert their livestock from danger. From a safe distance the wrist band could collect the waves from lurking predators alerting herders in ample time to move their livestock away from danger.

Predator alarm sensor (PAS)

Predator alarm sensor (PAS)

The team came up with predator solar lights that bomas can use at night to keep away predators. Energy absorbed by the solar panels is used to light lamps designed to imitate a guard with a torch walking a homestead through the night, deterring predators from attacking the bomas.

Predator solar lights

Predator solar lights

A pepper dung with launcher is a smoldering mixture of elephant dung and pepper. When shot at a herd of elephants, it irritates their senses keeping them away from farms. Elephants don't like capsaicin, the chemical in chilies that makes them hot. This is a cheap method, with readily available materials to make deterrents like briquettes of crushed chili and animal dung.

Pepper dung with launcher 

The prototypes will further be refined at Gearbox to production quality and funds are being sourced to empower the community especially local women groups to produce and sell them to the community generating income leveraging on the locally available materials used to produce them.

A little fun-time after work

A little fun-time after work

First Ever Guts’n’Glory Competition Winner

This month's winner -- Luide Kakembo

This month's winner -- Luide Kakembo

Last week, we held the first Guts’n’Glory night competition at Gearbox, and it was a rousing success! Nine contestants presented a slew of great ideas they would like to build at Gearbox ranging from hydroponics testing rigs to interactive art displays, from solar-powered off-grid refrigeration to IoT water sensors. The judges – made up of our first 10 generous donors who contributed a total of 50,000 KSh towards the prize – had a hard time of it. Each and every contestant gave a solid pitch, despite only having five minutes to get their idea across.

Ultimately, the presentation that won the vote was Luide Kakembo’s proposal to build a low-cost, multipurpose quadcopter using a carbon fiber frame. Aside from the obvious potential, both in the market and in impact, of light UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles), Luide showed a clear understanding of the challenges presented by building one in Kenya's current regulatory environment. His pitch was thorough and well-said, and ultimately convinced the voters of the value of his project, the benefit he would see in working at Gearbox, and the feasibility of making substantial progress over the next month.

Guts’n’Glory is a monthly competition held at Gearbox to help those with strong ideas for things they want to build get to the next step in their projects. Contestants get five minutes to present their idea to an audience made up of individuals who have donated towards the prize, who then vote on their favorite. The prize is made up of all the donations raised by the audience that month – this month it was 50,000 KSh – plus a one-month 3rd Gear membership to Gearbox and a month’s worth of free classes. 

The winner must then report back on the progress they've been able to make over the next month. We can't wait to see what Luide comes up with!

If you’ve got an idea for something you’d like to build at Gearbox, next month’s Guts’n’Glory night will happen on November 29th. Submissions are open now at If you’d like to contribute towards this month’s prize and be a part of choosing the winner, contact You could make a real difference and an immediate impact on the next wave of Kenyan inventors, designers, engineers, and entrepreneurs!

Guts'n'Glory Night is your chance to win 50,000 KSh!

Guts'n'Glory Night at Gearbox -- Oct. 25, 6:30pm - 9pm

Win 50,000 KSh, a full month's membership to Gearbox, and all your classes free!

This month, we're kicking off a monthly event that could give you everything you need to get started making things at Gearbox. On Tuesday, October 25th, up to 10 contestants will have the chance to present something they want to make to an audience eager to help them build it. The winner will walk away with 50,000 KSh to use towards building their project, a full month's 3rd Gear Membership to Gearbox, and all of the free classes they can take in that time (a ~36,000 KSh value).

Money for materials, access to tools and equipment, and training how to use it -- you won't have any excuses left for not making your dream a reality!

We want to help you make great things, and it turns out, so do a lot of people in our community. The prize money for Guts'n'Glory Night will be raised from donations each month from people you know, right here in Nairobi. This month, we've raised 50,000 KSh to offer as a prize. That's 50,000 KSh you can use to purchase materials, get parts made, order components, or do whatever else you need to do in order to move your project forward.

What's the catch, you ask? The winner will be determined by the people who donate the prize. Each contestant will have 5 minutes to present their idea at the event using whatever means they have at their disposal (props, slides, or their charming personality). The audience will then vote on their favorite idea to win. Only people who have donated will be allowed to vote, so your pitch needs to win their hearts!

The competition is open to anyone, of any background or experience level. There's no paperwork, no long application form, and no prerequisites. We're making it as easy as possible to get started making things -- just fill out the form on the page below to submit your name for the event.

We also need to send out a huge thank you to the generous donors who have contributed to this month's prize! We're planning to do this every month, so if you want to get involved, just let us know!

Announcing New Hours and Membership Plans!

Starting October 3, Gearbox will be open seven days a week.

You've been asking for it, and the day is finally here. Starting today, Gearbox will be open from 9am to 9pm, Monday through Friday, and 9am to 7pm on Saturday and Sunday. 

While working in Gearbox is a full-time job for some of our members, we know many of you aren't able to get away between the hours of 10 and 6 to learn how to use the laser cutter or whip up a PCB. Well, now we're inviting you to pop over after work, or spend your weekend building a prototype of that new invention you've been dreaming about for months.

We're also launching a whole new membership model to suit your schedule and budget. You can now choose from four membership options:

Student Memberships -- 1,000 KSh/month
Access the space any one (1) day per week.

1st Gear Memberships -- 4,000 KSh/month
Access the space any two (2) days per week, Monday through Friday only.

2nd Gear Memberships -- 6,000 KSh/month
Access the space all day Saturday and Sunday, and after 5pm Monday through Friday.

3rd Gear Memberships -- 10,000 KSh/month
Access the space all day, seven (7) days per week.

It's never been easier in Kenya to learn, design, and build anything you can imagine. Gearbox is open to anyone and everyone, so sign up now!

PayGo Energy

PayGo Energy, one of Gearbox corporate members is transforming the cooking fuel business among low-income urban households in Kenya. The company is enabling this population to access Liquid Petroleum gas (LPG) at quantities and cost that fits within their daily budgets.

PayGo Team with the Prototype

PayGo Team with the Prototype

The Kenya informal settlements, where the company is currently carrying out its operations, is home to almost 56% of the total urban population. These households spend an average of ksh 50 daily to cook on charcoal or kerosene – LPG tanks and stoves require an upfront investment that prices out this customer segment. PayGo Energy developed a smart meter that attaches to the gas cylinder and allows for pay per use gas in small quantities – and delivers a service that allows people to cook from day one on their own stove and pay only for the gas used per day.  

The detrimental effects of using cooking fuels like charcoal or kerosene on people’s health and the environment are well known, their fuel efficiency is also very low. By working with households in urban Nairobi, PayGo Energy has shown that cooking on LPG is faster, cleaner and just as affordable per day if customers can have a flexible payment structure that suits the dynamics of their life.

The smart metering prototype installed in a house

The smart metering prototype installed in a house

PayGo Energy prototyped their smart metering technology at Gearbox. PayGo Energy replaces the gas cylinder before running out – offering a continuous supply of gas for their customers. They also tapped into Kenya’s world renowned mobile payment platform to support the micro-payment structure.

Mobile Payment Platform

Mobile Payment Platform

By reducing the high up-front cost of the stove and cylinder deposit, and by smoothing the cylinder refill costs into affordable micro-payments, they are hoping low-income households will adopt LPG as their primary cooking fuel.

Mark Zuckerberg Visit.

Gearbox played host to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who visited the iHub community and met with tech entrepreneurs and Gearbox makers. Here is a pictorial tour of the visit...

Being welcomed at the space by Gearbox executive director Dr. Kamau Gachigi, Juliana Rotich, board member and other iHub community executives, Daudi Were- Ushaidi and Josiah Mugambi- outgoing executive director iHub. 

Being welcomed at the space by Gearbox executive director Dr. Kamau Gachigi, Juliana Rotich, board member and other iHub community executives, Daudi Were- Ushaidi and Josiah Mugambi- outgoing executive director iHub. 

Admiring  Strauss Energy solar Tile. Strauss Energy were among the first companies to test and use Gearbox facility.

Admiring  Strauss Energy solar Tile. Strauss Energy were among the first companies to test and use Gearbox facility.

PayGo Energy Co- founder Fausto Marcigot explaining the smart metering technology that enables use of mobile payments to buy small amounts of cooking gas. 

PayGo Energy Co- founder Fausto Marcigot explaining the smart metering technology that enables use of mobile payments to buy small amounts of cooking gas. 

Dr. Kamau showing Zuckerberg round the Mechanical workshop at Gearbox.

Dr. Kamau showing Zuckerberg round the Mechanical workshop at Gearbox.

 Simon Wachira Gearbox head of engineering demonstrating the CNC machine he developed at Gearbox.

 Simon Wachira Gearbox head of engineering demonstrating the CNC machine he developed at Gearbox.

One last photo with the iHub community. 

One last photo with the iHub community. 

Photos courtesy of Abu Okari.

Gearbox Makers: George Chege's Self-Regulating Chick Brooder


Currently one of the best investment opportunities in Kenya, chicken rearing offers high potential returns within a short time period (average 6 weeks for broilers and 6 months for indigenous breeds) and many Kenyan farmers are flocking into this business. This is the potential market George Chege, a soon to be graduate from Nairobi University saw and set out to net.  

Having himself tried the business several years back, Chege faced the two daunting challenges most chicken rearing farmers attest to, diseases and maintaining a conducive (temperature-wise) environment for the chicks. These two factors account for almost 90% of the losses incurred by chicken rearing farmers, he himself having lost almost half of his brood during his first stint at the venture due to a slip-up by one of the workers who forgot to turn on the infrared bulbs that provide heat in the chicken coop. The following morning almost half of his initial stock had died out of cold from the previous night. “See, it’s a labor intensive venture as one has to constantly check on the chicks especially during their early days between 1 to 14 days for broilers,” he explains. This is a common occurrence echoed by thousands of chicken rearing farmers.

For his fourth year mechanical design project, he decided to find a solution to this problem by designing an automated temperature sensing gadget that will alert a farmer when temperature is dipping or going above recommended levels. His project was just a concept with ideas acquired from reading articles and watching videos from the web and was good enough for him to pass the unit in school, but he still had the urge to develop the product. After an initial attempt at the fab lab in his university, he joined Gearbox as a member determined to make the project a success.

Chege demonstrating how the SRCB works

Chege demonstrating how the SRCB works

Named "Self Regulating Chick Brooder" or "SRCB", the gadget consists of a micro controller fitted with Temperature sensors (as many as necessary depending on the size of chick brooder and number of chicks), infra-red bulbs, a GSM module that manages communication between the gadget and the farmers mobile phone. He also developed a program based on C/C++ for the ATMEGA micro-controller that regulates the temperature of the coop corresponding to the age of the chicks.

“Chicks require different temperature levels at different stages of their growth” he explains. The code reads temperature levels from the sensors and switches on and off the infrared bulbs to maintain the temperature at the recommended levels all while transmitting the data to the farmer’s mobile phone who now has an easier time managing temperature levels in the coop. The gadget also transmits regular information that alerts the farmer when any of its functions break down or when temperatures drop to critical levels. 

Sample text message SRCB sends to a farmer indicating temperatures from two Sensors and the age of the chicks

Sample text message SRCB sends to a farmer indicating temperatures from two Sensors and the age of the chicks

Having ran several successful tests with local chicken farmers, he is currently looking for investors to help mass produce the product.

He is especially impressed with the equipment and the amazingly short time he took to develop the product from concept to prototype at Gearbox and he is looking to further iterate on his prototype to improve performance. We can't wait to see where he gets with the product!

Inside Gearbox, and The Grand Plan to Change Kenya’s Manufacturing Narrative

“Gearbox sees itself as leading Kenya’s charge into the 4th Industrial Revolution"

   -Dr. Kamau Gachigi

How much influence can a company have on the narrative of a coun

try?  What about a sector?  Immense, I could say. There is a lot

to back that up.

Sony Corporation’s mission, in addition to helping rebuild post-war Japan, was changing the perception of Japanese products that the rest of the world held.

It is now ranked among the best global brands, holding  the most valued Asia brand in 2014 and enviable positions in the USA where Japanese made products had a dismal reputation in the 1950s when Sony was re-branding.

Read more....

Leapfrogging into the Fourth Industrial Revolution at Gearbox

 Emerging Technologies That Will Change The World - click image to view zoomable PDF version from publisher                                                      IMAGE SOURCE:

 Emerging Technologies That Will Change The World - click image to view zoomable PDF version from publisher

                                                     IMAGE SOURCE:

Africa has generally lagged behind most other parts of the world in technology development. While this has meant lower productivity, high underemployment and high import dependency, this ‘technology backwardation’ has simultaneously created a tremendous opportunity to catch-up with and even excel technology developments in more advanced countries through a process of ‘Technology Leapfrogging’.

This is a phenomenon where technologically less advanced countries skip generations of legacy technologies to enter the market with more advanced solutions. For example, most of African countries skipped decades of less effective and less efficient fixed landline telephony technology by rapidly adapting mobile telephony for improved communication and wealth creation options when combined with mobile money solutions like m-pesa that helped leapfrog credit card-based money systems..

The Fourth Industrial Revolution report from the 2016 World Economic Forum at Davos highlighted how humanity is generally moving away from the heavy and ‘dirty’ manufacturing era to higher precision era characterized by greater knowledge/design intensity. Indeed the upsurge in patent warfare and global competition for talent by moneyed multinational enterprises underscores this new industrial epoch.

In order to maximize human talent and win this hyper-competitive knowledge era with fast product development and obsolescence, innovators need advanced product development tools to shorten time-to-market, quickly prove or fail their products, generate traction and raise sufficient capital to create network effects and dominate new markets. Without the capability to quickly prototype and market-test products, the race is lost before it begins.

This is where infrastructure such as GearboxFab Lab and other maker-spaces come into play.

These facilities provide open access to high precision digital fabrication tools that were too expensive for most people to access 10 years ago. They lower the entry barrier to innovation, enable local economies to manufacture what they need and even compete globally with new products and technologies.

For Africa, this means that we no longer need to look back to simpler legacy technologies but can look ahead at upcoming technology evolutions and jump in at the front of emerging waves. We have the necessary intellectual capacity and now the advanced tools to do so.


Gearbox Training Calendar - June 2016

May 2016 has seen over 30 people train in electronics fabrication and mechanical fabrication using state-of-the-art equipment available at Gearbox. This enabled projects to begin with confidence that the equipment user, other users and the equipment itself are safe.

I don't know why I would hang out anywhere else yet I learn something new here every day.                                                                                                                                                      - Chris Nguyai, Biotech Entrepreneur

Gearbox is happy to share a new training calendar for the month of June 2016, now including Mechanical Computer Aided Design courses.

  • Orientation is free of charge for members, and is required for all new members BEFORE they can use any equipment at Gearbox.
  • Safety and Basic Use (SBU) courses are required for many (not all) machines before you can use them at Gearbox. Members pay only a small lab fee of 500 KSh per course to cover the cost of materials.
  • SBUs will cost 3000 KSh per course for non-members.

To register for any course, please call 0790.406.265 during business hours (Mon - Fri, 10:00 - 18:00 hrs). Payment is due at the time of registering via Mpesa. All SBUs are limited to a maximum of 5 people per course, so that everyone has plenty of time to use the equipment.

Download Gearbox Training Calendar - June 2016 (PDF)

"Early Access" Program is Ending

For the last month, we've been offering a 20% discount on membership fees as part of our "Early Access" program. We're still bringing some machines and equipment online, but due to rapidly growing demand, June 6th will be your last chance to lock in a 1-month or 3-month membership at the reduced rate! With "Early Access" coming to an end, this means that 6-month and 1-year memberships will become available, as well as corporate memberships. We offer three different tiers of membership, depending on how often you would like to access the space:

  • 1st Gear: access the space any two days per week
  • 2nd Gear: access the space five days per week
  • Corporate: access the space five days per week for up to 5 employees

access better

corprate access better 2

Additional Costs

The membership fee grants access to Gearbox's facilities, but to use the equipment, you will need to attend an Orientation (offered every Monday, free of charge), and attend Safety and Basic Use classes for every tool or machine you would like to use (500 KSh per class for materials).


Additionally, some machines cost us more to operate and maintain, so we charge a small hourly use fee.

Machine Use

Remember: Gearbox is open Monday - Friday, from 10am to 6pm. All classes must be booked and paid for in advance.

Ready to Apply?

Click here to download the individual application form. Applications are processed on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, due to space restrictions, we can only accept a limited number of members!

We can't wait to help you design, learn, and build. Come join the fastest growing community of hardware entrepreneurs in Africa!


Announcing Early Access

Now that training has begun, we are excited to announce that Gearbox Lite is still accepting members for our Early Access program! While we are only accepting 20 new members in this round, all memberships are 20% off the full price: [one_half]

Monthly (after 20% discount)

1st Gear: 3,200 KSh per person per month (2 day/week access)

2nd Gear: 8,000 KSh per person per month (5 day/week access)



3-Months (after 20% discount)

1st Gear: 9,120 KSh per person (2 day/week access)

2nd Gear: 22,800 KSh per person (5 day/week access)


Some important notes:

  • 6-Month, 1-Year, and Corporate memberships are not yet available.
  • Some equipment is still being brought online, and may not be immediately available to members. Please review the list below to ensure that you will be able to do everything you want to do after securing your membership:


Equipment Status

Full Availability

  • PCB Line
    • Etching Process
    • Milling Process
    • Pick and Place/Reflow Oven
  • Electronics Bench
    • Soldering Stations
    • Rework Station
    • Oscilloscopes, Power Supplies, and Test Equipment
  • Fabrication Shop
    • Manual Mill
    • Shear, Brake, Roll
    • Vacuum Former
    • Handheld Power Tools (jig saw, angle grinder, etc.)
  • Digital Fabrication
    • CNC Mill (3-axis)


Limited Availability

  • Digital Fabrication
    • 3D Printers
    • Laser Cutter
  • Fabrication Shop
    • Bandsaw
    • Lathe
    • Drill Press
    • Spot Welder


Not Yet Available

  • Design Lab/Software
  • CNC Router/Plasma Cutter
  • Compressed Air/Pneumatics
  • CNC Mill (4th-axis)
  • Welding Booth
  • Grinders (Bench and Belt)
  • Hydraulic Press


We are bringing new processes online as quickly as possible. Stay tuned to this site for updates.

Ready to Join Now?

If you would like to secure your Early Access Membership immediately, you may do so by downloading an application form and submitting a hard copy in person to Gearbox Lite during regular business hours (Monday - Friday, 10am to 6pm).

Download Application Form

What Next?

After securing your membership, you must attend a regularly scheduled orientation BEFORE you can start using ANY of the equipment in the space outside of a scheduled training class.

Orientations will happen every Monday, from 2pm-6pm. Orientations are only open to 10 members at a time, and must be booked at the front desk prior to attending.

A full safety and basic use (SBU) course calendar is available online. Each SBU is limited to 5 people, and has a lab fee of 500 KSh for members, or 3,000 KSh for non-members.

Gearbox Lite is open to members for general use from 10am-6pm, Monday through Friday. We can’t wait to help you design, learn, and build. Welcome to Gearbox!

Gearbox Training Begins Now!

Gearbox is happy to announce that regularly scheduled training will begin for both members and non-members next week!

  • Orientation is free of charge for members, and is required for all new members BEFORE they can use any equipment at Gearbox.
  • Safety and Basic Use (SBU) courses are required for many (not all) machines before you can use them at Gearbox. Members pay only a small lab fee of 500 KSh per course to cover the cost of materials.
  • SBUs will cost 3000 KSh per course for non-members.
  • Level 2 courses cover advanced material beyond Safety and Basic Use, and are subject to a fee (varies depending on the course) for both members and non-members.

To register for any course, please call 0790.406.265 during business hours (Mon - Fri, 10:00 - 18:00 hrs). Payment is due at the time of registering via Mpesa. All SBUs are limited to a maximum of 5 people per course, so that everyone has plenty of time to use the equipment.

Download Gearbox Training Calendar (PDF)

Applications for Gearbox Membership now Open!

Gearbox is Now Accepting Applications for Membership  

Salaams! Greetings!

Gearbox finally opens its doors to public membership on April the 4th !!!

Many of you have been waiting anxiously for this announcement and it gives us great pleasure to finally make it! We’ve been painstakingly reviewing all our plans, getting all our training manuals ready etc., and the date has finally been determined. We’ll be taking 20 members on board, due to space constraints, and hereby cordially invite all those interested to apply. We do expect to take more members on over the coming months as we work hard to ensure that our members get the best possible service we can provide.

Our last two posts outlined what happens when you sign up to become a member at Gearbox and what kinds of tools and equipment you’ll be getting access to as a member. Applications are welcome now and will be evaluated on a “first-come, first-served” basis. Gearbox is open to everyone, regardless of education, skill-level, or background, but priority will be given to entrepreneurs looking to use the space and equipment to develop new products and build new businesses.

Successful applicants will be able to access the space from April 4th.

To apply, please print and fill out the attached form, and deliver it in person to Gearbox Lite – 2nd Floor, Bishop Magua Centre (across from Uchumi on Ngong Road).

Once you’ve submitted your application, you will be notified over the next few weeks whether it has been accepted in this round or waitlisted until the next. If accepted, you can officially sign up as a member by paying your fee, taking the Orientation class, and signing up for your first training session (see this post for how training and tool access works)!

Click here to download the individual application form: Gearbox Individual Application Form

Remember, forms must be printed and submitted in person at Gearbox Lite!

(If you are an entrepreneur who would like your team to have access to Gearbox, stay tuned to our next post for information on how to apply for a company membership.)

Gearbox Lite Update – Memberships and Training

Our last post gave a glimpse of the kinds of tools and equipment Gearbox members will have access to. Today, we’re going to answer all of the other questions that follow: how does one become a member? How much does it cost? Can just anyone walk in and use the tools, or do I need training or qualifications? What about safety? Let’s talk about safety first (safety is always first!). Gearbox is a “members only” space, meaning only Gearbox members and staff are allowed to operate the equipment. Before using any tool or machine, members must go through Gearbox’s training program. Gearbox provides all necessary safety equipment (safety glasses, protective gloves, etc.), and provides clearly marked rules and guidelines for the safe use of all tools and machinery. Gearbox staff are there at all times to supervise and train, and Gearbox’s safety infrastructure (fire extinguishers, emergency eye wash stations, materials storage, etc.) have all been designed to the highest international standards. Safety is our number one priority!

So who gets to use Gearbox, you might ask? Everyone is welcome to join Gearbox as a member! Our training program assumes no prior knowledge of engineering, tool use, or fabrication at all. We welcome complete beginners alongside established product developers (if you have extensive experience using the kinds of equipment available at Gearbox, you will still need to sign up for our training program and prove your ability to operate the machinery, but you won’t have to sit through hours of beginner-level classes). The workshop has been designed by professional product developers specifically to help entrepreneurs launch new products and businesses, and we do give priority to people developing new commercial products, but no professional experience is required to join Gearbox – just passion and creativity!


Due to our limited space at Gearbox Lite, you will have to apply to become a member (our next post will explain how that works). Members will have access to the space Monday through Friday, 10am-6pm. There are two tiers of membership to choose from: “1st Gear” grants you access any two days of the week, while “2nd Gear” grants five days. A 1st Gear membership will cost 4,000 KSh per month (per person), and a 2nd Gear membership will cost 10,000 KSh per month (per person), with 5%, 10%, and 20% discounts for buying three months, six months, or a full year in advance.

Membership Chart


Once you’ve paid your membership fee, your next step will be to go through Orientation. This is a specific class that will be offered once or twice a week (stay tuned to future posts for the class schedule), and will cover ground rules, general safety procedures, and show you where everything is. After taking the Orientation, you can begin using the space and any hand tools or machines that are NOT bolted down.

For those tools and machines that are not covered in the Orientation, there is a specific training course that you will be required to take before being allowed to operate that machine. These courses will be offered on a regular basis, and must be signed up for in advance (again, stay tuned for the class schedule). Most classes will be an average of four hours long, though some of the more advanced equipment may require multiple classes over several weeks (such as CNC machines).

Once you have taken the necessary training class (and proven that you were paying attention and can operate the equipment safely), you are allowed to use it whenever you need to. Machine time can be reserved at the front desk (if you need to do four hours of work on the laser cutter next Tuesday, for example), otherwise they are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Some machines (such as the laser cutter, CNC machines, or 3D printers) will have a low hourly use fee from 500-1,000 KSh per hour, but most are included in the price of your membership.

Consumables (like machine oil, for example) are provided by Gearbox, but materials (like wood, metal, or 3D printer filament) must be purchased or provided by the member. We have a small inventory of items like 3D printer filament that are available for purchase on site, but expect to bring electronic components or wood, metal, or plastic stock with you. Along with the class schedule, some of our next posts will have the full list of prices, services, and materials available at Gearbox.

If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch at! As mentioned, our next few posts will cover how to apply to become a member, the full service and price list, and the class schedule. If you’ve been dreaming about things you would love to build, if only you had the tools, it’s time to start getting excited!

Gearbox Lite Update - The Workshop

It’s been many months since our last update on our buildout status. Since then, the bulk of our equipment has been installed and is ready to use. We’ve been testing things, making things, and writing training manuals. We’ve been working with a small cohort of companies whom we invited into the space to help us try everything out. Now, we’re just about ready to start accepting new members, so here’s a glimpse at what the Gearbox community will be up to! As a Gearbox member, you will have access to all the tools and equipment necessary for:

  • PCB fabrication (wet and dry processes)
    • Screen printing/stencil making
    • Spray etching
    • Contour routing, milling, and drilling
  • Electronics assembly and testing
    • Soldering and rework stations
    • Oscilloscopes
    • Power supplies
    • Pick and place
    • Reflow oven
  • Housing/enclosure and mechanical fabrication
    • 3D printers
    • Laser cutter
    • 4-axis CNC mill
    • 3-axis CNC plasma cutter/wood router
    • Welding booth (MIG and arc)
    • Manual mill and lathe
    • Shear, brake, and roll
    • Band saw, drill press, belt sander, bench grinder
    • Vacuum former
    • A wide variety of pneumatic and hand tools

Plus much more! This video gives you a quick walkthrough of the space and some of the tools (note: the space is still under construction and lots of things are being reorganized – a few of the tool stations mentioned above are unfinished in the video).

The tools, equipment, and processes available at Gearbox Lite have been designed after many months of consultation with local and international product designers, prototyping labs, incubators, accelerators, and makerspaces, specifically to support hardware entrepreneurs. If you have an idea for a new product, come see if you can build it at Gearbox!

(The next post will explain all about how to become a member and gain access to the powerful tools and resources available at Gearbox Lite.)

Gearbox Buildout Update

While our blog has been rather quiet over the last few weeks, our space certainly hasn’t. We’ve had our heads down in the construction process at Gearbox Lite for a while now, but we thought it high time we shared a glimpse of all the hard work the team has been up to. The last time we checked in, our walls had just gone up and we had a new concrete floor laid. Since then, we’ve installed wiring – 3-phase power in the fabrication shop for the big machines, along with plenty of outlets and high-speed internet throughout the rest of the space. We’ve painted the walls and floors, installed windows, and sealed every nook and cranny for the best possible soundproofing.


We’ve also been building furniture. The gorgeous table tops in the picture above were made by the folks at Unity Makers -- -- entirely from recycled scrap wood. We had some legs cut on the water jet at Kens Metal in Industrial Area, and we’re quite proud of the finished look.


These tables are meant to be used by members doing deskwork – designing, coding, testing, working on a laptop. Most of the fabrication in the space will be done on the counters we’ve built.


The frames are made from angle iron and square steel pipe, finished with a clear epoxy. This is where we encountered some of the difficulties inherent in making things in Nairobi. We cut the steel using our 26-inch portable band saw, arguably the perfect tool for the job. Unfortunately, we found ourselves going through blades like candy. No matter which blades we bought, no matter how slow (or fast) we cut, no matter the pressure we applied, our blades would either go blunt or break after only a handful of cuts.

They say a true craftsman never blames the tool, but I have to say, I haven’t broken a band saw blade in 10 years, and these blades bested everyone on our team. We couldn’t verify the true origin of where our blades were made, but we’ll try importing some Lenox blades next time we’re in the US and seriously speed things up. If anyone has leads on where to get the best blades in Nairobi, leave a tip in the comments!

The tops are being made with a double layer of 18mm blockboard. The finished look is polished but utilitarian, and we can quickly and easily remake and reconfigure the space as our needs change over the coming years.

One of the fun parts of doing construction is seeing everyone get involved. Most of the frames have been cut by Peter (who also designed the gear-shaped table legs above), while the welding was mostly done by William, our workshop lead at Gearbox Lite. Even Faith, our admin coordinator, got her hands dirty.




These photos are just a few glimpses of the work that’s being done. We’ve got quite a few more updates to share, especially regarding some exciting new equipment that’s come in and will soon be available to use. Keep following this page for more updates – when we set our official launch date, it will be announced here.


Alongside all of the work that remains to be done, we’re still engaging with our community. We’ve held several meetups and events in Gearbox Lite, and will continue to hold more before our official launch. Follow our page on -- -- to learn when you can come check out the space for yourself.

And now, it’s time for me to get back to the band saw!

Africa Mobile App Challenge

The Africa Mobile App Challenge is an ICT training and contest that is organized by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology together with AVIC International Holding Corporation (, a comprehensive platform for China's aviation industry to develop overseas markets, and Gearbox, Kenya's open engineering space for design and rapid prototyping. Aligned with the Nation’s Vision 2030, the contest is to help recent college graduates and youth who have basic knowledge of computer programming to be trained in mobile app development and thereafter successfully produce a user-friendly app for connecting Kenyan students’ innovations with the public for showcasing their skills and generating interest among local and global companies who are looking for top talent in Kenya.

The amazing prizes include: • 1st place winner receives a cash prize of $5,000 and access to GearBox's incubation and business development services for up to 6-months (free). • 2nd place receives a cash prize of $2,000. • 3rd place receives a cash prize of $1,000.

If you are interested in participating, fill out this application form and provide the documents required below either online via this link -- Africa Mobile App Challenge Application -- or pickup and drop the form at these locations:

Ministry of Education, Science and Technology Teleposta Towers 24th floor, Room 2414, Nairobi, Kenya

Gearbox 2nd Floor, Bishop Magua Centre, Ngong Road, Nairobi, Kenya

Kindly note: ∗ You are requested to submit this application and a copy of your school transcript that shows you have taken the required computer language classes before the deadline of July 18th, 2015, after which the selected contestants will be contacted by July 21st. ∗ Kindly confirm you will be available from July 27th to August 8th, 2015 (closed training & competition) before you register as a contestant in this competition. ∗ Contest location is at Kenya Technical Teachers College (KTTC) in Runda Estate, Nairobi. If selected, onsite accommodation and computer access will be provided.

The Gearbox Lite Floor Plan

The floor plan of the new Gearbox Lite facility. 

I'm sitting in the new Gearbox Lite facility. The floors were finished over the weekend and there are gaps in the interior walls which will soon be filled by windows and doors. Dust is in the air from the recently plastered drywall and the new darkroom is taking shape.

Many of you share the raw excitement of construction, designing a product and making it happen. That is exactly what Gearbox Lite will be bringing to Nairobi and with each passing day walls are soundproofed, floors are painted, and we publish more information about our upcoming facility!

As you could see in our recent post about the construction things are moving along smoothly. We can now share the floor plan (below) and provide a glance of what our amazing workshop will resemble weeks from now.

When designing the space, we drew on months of research into what people are making in Nairobi, how they are making it, and what they need to be able to take their prototypes to the next level. We held roundtables with local entrepreneurs to find out what they would like to make and what's preventing them from making it. We visited some of the best prototyping labs around the world and consulted experts from companies like Autodesk, PCH, and GE, and top universities including MIT and the University of Edinburgh.

Gearbox Lite is the first step in bringing our dream of a world-class prototyping space, open and available to anyone in Nairobi, to fruition. The space is dedicated to the design, prototyping, and fabrication of industrial and consumer electronics, something we've witnessed an incredible and growing demand for. Let's start the tour at the entrance (which can be seen in the upper right)...

The start of your Gearbox experience will be with a warm welcome from our receptionist who will help sign up new members and provide information on trainings for existing members. On your left you'll see shelves displaying some of the current and future award winning products to be spun out of our facilities. Straight ahead you'll see the design studio -- PC workstations with CAD, CAM, and ECAD software will allow members to add structure to their ideas before building.

The true magic of Gearbox Lite will be the combination electronics lab and fabrication shop. The fabrication shop is surrounded by 6 inch walls to reduce sound with large 8 foot windows to open up the space. Inside you'll find everything from a CNC mill to a drill press. Back out in the main area you'll find workbenches and lockers to store projects while walking towards the electronics lab. With soldering irons, oscilloscopes, a pick and place and reflow oven, a laser cutter, a 3D printer, and a dark room, this high tech professional lab will have the gear to take your project to the next level!

Now that you've completed the walk through of our facility I'd encourage everyone to sign up for our monthly Hardware meet up! As the facility nears completion we will be blogging more regularly providing updates and will soon have a newsletter for our members.

Written by Ryan Fetterly, Gearbox Innovation Fellow

Gearbox is hiring!

We are excited to announce that with the opening of our first facility we will be expanding our team! We are hiring for a Electronics and Fabrication Engineer. Links to the  job description and how to apply can be found at the bottom of the article. We encourage all readers to forward this post to any friends interested in the following role. Here is a quick summary:

Electronics and Fabrication Engineer:

Does the thought of managing one of the most advanced prototyping labs in Kenya excite you? Do you have a background in electronics and fabrication along with a passion for teaching others? This position requires a highly organized individual capable of handling workshop management along with health and safety, training, and community interaction. If you are interested, love building the maker community and can't wait to role up your sleeves to help develop Nairobi's community space for hardware entrepreneurs, we encourage you to apply!

Job link: