Guest Post by Paul Birkelo Gearbox took an important step forward this last week with Dr. Kamau Gachigi taking the helm as Executive Director.
Five years ago, Dr. Kamau founded the Fab Lab at the University of Nairobi, part of the global Fab Lab network of open engineering and innovation spaces started at MIT. Over those five years, he has seen the potential for hardware innovation in Kenya explode, opening another Fab Lab in Nairobi, with one already active just outside Kisumu, all fostering a new generation of thinking in engineering and design.
As a lecturer in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering since 1999, until recently he headed the University of Nairobi Science and Technology Park, home to 15 cutting edge technology companies. An entrepreneur himself, he is involved in a number of startups outside the university, most notably serving as the VP of Operations for Genziko Inc., a highly innovative engineering firm researching, designing, and manufacturing devices for power generation from roadways.
A materials scientist by training, Dr. Kamau holds a U.S. patent for electronic materials used in a biomedical device. His research focuses on producing activated carbon from waste, value addition to ores, and digital fabrication. He has published 10 scientific papers, 17 papers on technology and innovation, and a book chapter published by the University of Texas. Before joining the University of Nairobi, he spent two and a half years in Japan as a researcher at the multinational electronics firm TDK, and earned his doctorate in Solid State Science from Pennsylvania State University in the US.
Just last month, Dr. Kamau was honored at the Transform Kenya Awards for his contribution to building the country’s innovation capacity in manufacturing. Having laid the groundwork for the next generation of talented and creative engineers in his work at the university, dealt with the difficulties of hardware development and prototyping in his own companies, and spurred other entrepreneurs to develop new innovations at the UoN Science and Technology Park, he sees Gearbox as the fundamental next step in helping local engineers and designers develop creative solutions to local problems.
Using Gearbox to bring world-class design and fabrication tools to Kenya and making them available to all – artists, tinkerers, students, professionals, and entrepreneurs – Dr. Kamau hopes to transform Kenya yet again. With his wealth of experience, knowledge, and undeniable passion for empowering people through technology, his leadership at Gearbox is an extraordinary opportunity, and we couldn’t be more excited to have him onboard!