The Passion of Innovative Young Minds! Meet the Four Nigerian Teenage Girls who Developed a Urine-Powered Generator

Two weeks ago, Nigerians, and indeed the entire world were stunned with the pleasant and extraordinary news of four teenage girls who successfully developed a Urine-Powered Generator. I call it extraordinary because the invention was not developed by some Professor or University Students or experienced Engineers, but by four girls between the ages of 14 and 15. The Senior Secondary 2 students from Doregos Private Academy, Ipaja, Lagos exhibited the project at the Maker Faire Africa, an exhibition for inventors which took place in Lagos and from there, their story was spread across the world.
I was so impressed with the news of their invention that I sought them out. An email sent to the organizers of the exhibition got me connected with the supervisor of the project and after a few exchanges, I headed over to their school.
The girls are perhaps some of the youngest I’ve ever had an interview with, but as we sat chatting in their school’s Chemistry Laboratory, I had no doubt that I was in the midst of some very bright minds.
Adebola Duro-Aina (14), Oluwatoyin Faleke (14), Eniola Bello (15) and Abiola Akindele (14) are close friends and members of their school’s JETS club. They’ve consistently had good grades in school, and are very passionate about making positive changes in their society. The idea of a Urine- Powered Generator was borne out of a desire to solve critical problems in Nigeria and they shared with me the journey from the birth of their idea to its fulfillment.

Were you inspired to develop a urine-powered generator by any particular event? How did you come up with the idea?
Adebola: We have a regular problem of fuel scarcity and epileptic power supply  in Nigeria. Nigerians have sought for alternatives using generators but these generators are mainly carbon and fuel based. And fuel is expensive due to the hike in price. There are also many cases of Carbon Monoxide poisoning in our homes so we began to think of what could be done to reduce the death rate from Carbon Monoxide poisoning and also provide cheap alternatives for fueling our generators. We’ve been taught in Chemistry that all waste materials contain energy, so we thought of using this energy to power our generators. We thought of urine, did some research and found that it had hydrogen and oxygen molecules. We also found out that the exhaust of urine is water vapour which is not poisonous. So we opted for urine.

Have you ever heard of anyone in any part of the world inventing something similar to what you girls did?
Abiola: When we thought of it, we asked ourselves if it could actually work. We went on research and found out that it was possible. I’ve heard sometime that someone tried to use urine but it didn’t work out. So we developed our own idea.

Adebola Duro-Aina

Did you have any help from your teachers or a professional engineer in developing the project?
Eniola: Our supervisor helped us during the research and when we were also developing the project. He helped us get some of our materials and advised us on some adjustments we had to make to our engine. He helped us in calculating the risk involved and came up with ideas for precautionary methods we used in our Generator.

How long did it take to develop the project and what challenges did you face in getting your materials and resources together.
Oluwatoyin: It took us about three to four weeks to complete it. The first project we made exploded. This was due to the fact that we didn’t insert a one way valve in the Generator. When we inserted it, it enabled the Hydrogen go into the Generator and not go back into the Electrolytic Cell where the urine is. Most of the materials we used were gotten from the refuse dump apart from the generator and the water filter. We picked the gas cylinder from a dustbin and got a used car battery which we emptied the contents and used the case to put the urine in. That served as our electrolytic cell.

When I first saw the picture of your project online, I assumed the coloured liquid in the glass container was the urine.
Adebola: That was Borax actually. The urine is inside the Electrolytic Cell because urine has to be electrolysed to Hydrogen, Oxygen mixture. The Borax is used to dry the Hydrogen gas because if moisture gets into the Generator, it spoils the engine.

Were you ever doubtful about the project while you were working on it? Did you ever think that it would not work?
Abiola: When it exploded after our first try, we were meant to be discouraged but we were not. We attempted it again and it worked.

Oluwatoyin Faleke

What you girls have developed is quite impressive, but how useful is it to the average Nigerian? Do you think this is something that can be replicated in every home?
Adebola: Definitely. This is still a raw idea. It needs to be made compact and we also need funding from the government. Nigerians love cheap things and if you tell them they can use their urine instead of fuel to power their generator, they’d go for it.
Oluwatoyin: We are still brainstorming on how to make it portable instead of it having so many parts.
Eniola: We just want to make it portable for everyone to be able to use it. We need help from the government to make it more portable.
Abiola: We need the support of the government to get it mass produced.

When the news about your project was reported in the media, it was noted that One Litre of urine can power the generator for six hours. Is that true?
Adebola: Actually, 6 litres of urine can power a generator for 36 hours while I litre powers it for 6 hours. In our electrolytic cell, we have 6 litres capacity which can work for 36 hours.
Abiola: But it needs regular topping of urine because the urea will be getting more concentrated over time.
Adebola: So when you use one litre for six hours, it needs to be topped up. You don’t need to pour it out, just to top it.

What is the current voltage that can be obtained from using urine to power a generator?
Adebola: The voltage depends on the capacity of the generator. For this project, we used a 1.2KVA generator.

The students generated electricity using the Urine-Powered Generator

Your project got world-wide recognition after you exhibited it at the Maker Faire Africa. Tell me about your experience at the exhibition? What did you gain from it?
Adebola: So many people were interested in our project and we were so happy, it really boosted our confidence. It gave us courage that we could embark on other projects that would improve Nigeria.

When exactly did you start developing the project and when was it completed?
Oluwatoyin: We came up with the idea sometime around September 2012 and we completed it in October 2012.

Did you carry out this project in preparation for the Maker Faire Africa or was it something you just did because you thought it was a good idea?
Eniola: In our JETS club, we heard about a family of five that died of Carbon Monoxide poisoning so we wanted to find a solution so that Nigerians won’t be dying like that. It wasn’t because of the exhibition. By the time we heard about the exhibition, we already had something to showcase.

Do you do such brainstorming regularly at your school’s JETS club and have you carried out any similar projects recently?
Abiola: We are still thinking of more projects to do. We are hoping we can replicate this idea to be used for other machines that use fuel apart from generators such as motorbikes and cars. We are thinking of a situation where urine can be used as an alternative for fuel on a larger scale.

Eniola Bello

Tell me more about your individual interests. What are your best subjects, where would you like to further your education after your Secondary School and what do you want to be in future?
Adebola: My best subjects are the three core science subjects – Chemistry, Biology and Physics and I want to be a Gynaecologist. I’d like to study in the U.S, actually at Harvard University.
Oluwatoyin: I like Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics and I want to become an Ophthalmologist. If at all I want to study in Nigeria, it would be at Obafemi Awolowo University, or maybe I’d study in Ghana.
Eniola: My best subjects are English, Biology, Physics but most especially Chemistry and Economics. I want to be a Computer Engineer. I’d love to study in Canada.
Abiola: My best subjects are Geography, Biology, Chemistry and Further Mathematics. I want to be a Neurosurgeon. I want to study in Australia.

With your invention, I’m surprised none of you said you wanted to study something like Chemical or Mechanical Engineering. Three of you want to go into the medical field. Doesn’t anyone want to continue inventing useful items like the Urine-Powered Generator? 
Adebola: I can still affect lives in any profession I do. I can also put this innovative streak into medical methods like finding a cure to HIV or Cancer. This Generator idea just came up because we are trying to solve a problem we noticed around us.
Oluwatoyin: No knowledge is wasted. We can apply the knowledge of what we’ve learnt into any aspect of our lives. I might be needed to do something in the hospital related to the project we’ve done in school someday.
Eniola: Just like in movies where people bring up computer screens in the air and use their hands to operate them, I’d love to invent something like that!
Abiola: I want to be a neurosurgeon and I would really love to build a machine that will automatically perform surgeries on a patient.

Abiola Akindele

Your parents must have given you some support while you were developing the project. Tell me about some exceptional things they did that you are grateful for.
Adebola: While we were doing this project, we closed late most times so our parents gave us permission to stay long hours in school. They also gave us spiritual support, advised us, corrected our mistakes and I was able to confide my Mum.
Oluwatoyin: Our parents understood what we were doing so they always tried to bring out the best in us. They give us financial, moral and spiritual support. When the initial project exploded, they encouraged us to try again.
Eniola: Our parents have been really supportive. They understand what we are into and want to bring out the best in us.
Abiola: My Mum really stood by me but when I told my Dad that we were making a Urine-Powered Generator, he just laughed at it. When I told him we finally did it, he didn’t believe until he saw us on the internet and he was so excited.

Having developed a project this important, I must once again congratulate you girls. What is your message to Nigerians and to the Government? What do you want to tell them?
Adebola: This idea is for Nigerian homes. Nigerians are really dying from Carbon Monoxide poisoning. We really need help and this is just a way of saying that we can help. We are saying this is our idea, government, please help improve on this idea.
Oluwatoyin: Our message is that urine can be used as an alternative for fuel.
Eniola: Many Nigerians have lost their jobs because their businesses depend solely on power supply. Also, because of the problem of fuel scarcity, we don’t get enough fuel to power our generators. We’ve made an alternative and we want our government to take up on this idea and make mass production.
Abiola: My message to Nigerians is that we shouldn’t neglect our waste. Instead of dumping refuse, there are so many things we can recycle that can still be useful for us. Waste is not waste until you waste it.

The students with their supervisor, Oluseyi Lawal

The news of the girls’ invention has been followed by claims on some media platforms saying the idea was not completely theirs and a similar invention had been developed elsewhere. Oluseyi Lawal, the supervisor of the project had this to say.

“It is a new concept entirely. What others have tried to do was to electrolyze urine but so far they have not been able to successfully perfect the system. Not only have we generated enough gases, we have been able to use it to power a generator. You can crosscheck all these facts from the internet. The idea of using gases from urine to power a generator was entirely ours.”

51 Comments on The Passion of Innovative Young Minds! Meet the Four Nigerian Teenage Girls who Developed a Urine-Powered Generator
  • Ebrufles November 23, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    All I can say is age is nothing but a number, wow well done girls

    Love peace and wisdom

  • didikan November 23, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    these gals are awesome. kudos. im just wondering tho whose urine was used. lol

  • Joshua November 23, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Now that’s what i’m talking about! Kudos to Bola, Toyin, Eniola, Biola and their supervisor who saw them through this successful research. I’m so impressed. thanks BN….

  • iamfascinating November 23, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    keep it up, girls. You have no limits!
    http://www.thestunninglady.blogspot.com

  • Glam November 23, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    This girls are science prodigies. Nigeria indeed has a future and a hope…
    http://theglamfile.blogspot.com

  • sefi-ann November 23, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    i am so impressed with these young girls. Judging from the interview, they are very well spoken ladies. We need to encourage young talent in Nigeria. Im blown away.

  • chinco November 23, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Impressive!!! I’m happy we still have some youths that are more steve hawkins than khardashian sisters.

  • Toyin November 23, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    African/Nigerians are talented, innovative and it hurts me that innovation and dream ends up dying because no much access to resources and opportunities. Imagine, if there was I will say Africa will be one of the top for gifted, talented innovators. Unfortunately, these corrupt leaders can’t see it because of their greed, selfishness and wickedness.

  • Toyin November 23, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Congrats to these brilliant young ladies for this in spite of the bad situation in the country.

  • bussie November 23, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Thumbs up girls!!

  • ViralGist November 23, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Nice one, proud of them.

  • Big Nigga November 23, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Well done babes!You are precious…

  • rop November 23, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Using the bathroom will never be the same for me again…lol. Nice one girls

  • Otunba November 23, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Parents, una don see say no be to carry millions dey pay school fees per term for V/I and Lekki be the thing.

  • lol November 23, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Great minds..so mature too and u see they are obviously not paying 1m for school fees oo smh.May you find favour from the Government so proud of u lot!

  • kolawole femmy November 23, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    wow.am really impressed.we have talent in nigeria but our government is of no help to exhibit them

  • Adedoyin November 23, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Impressive….Proud of you girls!

  • Sola November 23, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Kudos girls, but I am sure the government will show no interest in it because that will mean the end is near to money they steal from petroleum

  • TheLearningCraft November 23, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    A show of what a good education can bring; discovery of talents and innovation. The location of a school or the amount of fees paid doesn’t make a good school automatically become a great school. It is the passion to deliver learning effectively by outstanding educators/administrators and professional/selfless teachers that transforms students into inventors. See http://thelearningcraft.blogspot.com/2012/09/school-fees-on-rise-business-of.html Good job BN for taking time out to visit Doregos to showcase these bright younsters, you got there just as we were. Let us all support education in Nigeria in any measure we can. These are my coming CELEBRIKIDS on my blog after my research is through. So proud of the girls! Taking on the boys huh! Makes me smile!

  • yoyo November 24, 2012 at 12:00 am

    I am proud of these young girls…but a bit dissapointed they all want to go into medicine. we need innovation in nigeria and the hardcore sciences is what will allow that happen. Not because you are good in Chem, bio, phy, maths means you have to do medicine. i wont be surprised if its what their parents are telling them to become or if its what perception of society has created. No offense to Nigerian Doctors but….i will say no more.

    • Glam-a-fied November 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      Yoyo,

      I’m with you on this one o! I’m a medical doctor and even I was thinking the same thing. I was yelling nooooo! True they can make changes in whatever field but we beef more genious minds in the engineering field.

  • Philippa Hurley November 24, 2012 at 1:46 am

    I asked my own mother once, ‘why did you and Dad never help or encourage me with my schoolwork when I was a child?’
    She replied ‘it is no use educating girls because all they do is get married and have kids!’ This was from a woman who hated being a housewife and didn’t particularly enjoy being a mother, caucasian and in the UK, who had had an education freely supplied, (albeit in the ’30s and ’40s). When I retorted, that ‘such a thing is true, when it is the only option open to a girl when she gets little education,’ she shot back with ‘well what would YOU have done with a good education?’ I replied, ‘what I always wanted to do, become a teacher!’ ‘What good would that have been?’ she asked incredulously. I could see I was on a hiding to nothing, so quickly regrouped my thoughts and countered with the only argument she would really understand. ‘Well I would be earning almost double what my husband earns now!’
    This attitude towards educating girls is still rife in society, even in the so called developed countries. THANK GOD, that these four wonderful young women have different parents than mine, (now if just SOME of the rest of the world will follow suit, the world may just be able to be pulled out of the dark ages.) We need all girls to be given good education. Educate a boy and he makes a life for himself. Educate a girl and she makes a life for her whole family! (Also she may well create something useful for the rest of society, that it NEEDS, like these great examples in the article!) Rant over! Sorry about that.

  • R November 24, 2012 at 3:49 am

    Incredible ladies! The world is your oyster

  • Ari L. November 24, 2012 at 4:34 am

    This girls are praise worthy. However, Gerardine Botte, a chemical engineer at Ohio University invented the urea electrolysis process.

  • jennietobbie November 24, 2012 at 4:52 am

    The future…PROUD

  • Vee November 24, 2012 at 5:21 am

    This is really Impressive.. I really hope they get more backing for this

  • revivedafrikana November 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    God bless them fully.
    http://www.sweetmothermag.com

  • vanessa November 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    i cant really remember what i was doing at 14-15 i know i wasnt in any school club neither did i think of anything than hols.its so beautiful to see these girls with so much intelligence brainstorming and coming up with wonderful ideas.i really do not know if the federal government or individuals will take it up but we now know that urine can generate power.kudos babes.

  • nita November 24, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    THESE GIRLS ARE INTELLIGENT! WE NEED TO SET UP A FUND TO HELP YOUNG ONES LIKE THEM. I will do my best to set up one.

  • hanie November 24, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    O_o WOW. God bless Nigeria

    http://muslimahanie.com

  • kev November 24, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    nice, very impressive, especially in africa with the resources they have…. maybe they flukes it lol, i was just wondering whose urine did they actually use????? thats kinda disgusting.. … but very impressed maybe these kids should be looked at and studied more carefully, they could end up ender acheiving if they arent given oportunities like most gifted people…

  • Igedu Stephen November 24, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Waoo. What a news! I pray d Lord see thoes chdn through with every thing posable 4 dem 2 move 2 d nest level in JESUS AMEN and (?) chdn dont worry d Lord is strenght. I love u all and tank u guys 4 uplifting Nigerias name once more. Stay bles

  • Flo November 25, 2012 at 4:40 am

    Veryyyyyyyyyyyyyy Impressive!!!!!!!!!’ May they do greater things….. Amennnn

  • JOhn November 25, 2012 at 5:19 am

    How do we nuture their talent? Encourage this program and their school? “I have $20.00″, where do I sent it to? Who reliable can I sent it to? Is their a foundation or non-profit similar to this http://www.gmin.org/innovate-salone

    I want to do the little I can. I hope others join in to do the same.

  • Lisa London November 25, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Why on earth are they wearing blazers & ties in tropical weather?

    • ofilispeaks November 26, 2012 at 9:55 am

      what does that have to do with the price of chicken =/

    • dara November 26, 2012 at 11:55 am

      *hiss*
      #questionforthegods

  • Gloria November 26, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Kudos to the young inventors, we are proud of you. My concern is the urine, what’s the capacity that will serve Nigerians?

  • tomeloma November 26, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Adeola is there a way to sponsor this girls on their next project…because I’m stunned and I have to do something to encourage them…

  • missme November 26, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    y’all get a patent attorney ASAP. This one weh people dun deh claim say the idea no original. Very impressed.

  • Lynn November 27, 2012 at 12:44 am

    Inspiring teens…Waste is not waste until u waste it. There’s hope in Nigeria..we’ll definitely get better, these four girls are a proof. So proud of u gals

  • hehe(this i know) November 27, 2012 at 2:38 am

    <3

  • Laurel November 27, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Kudos to the young girls. God bless them.

  • peaches November 27, 2012 at 9:31 am

    wow!! am proud to say Doregos was my alma mata! Kudos to u girls and never give up on ur dreams and aspirations!! up D.P.A!!!!

  • Dazzle November 27, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Wow!! im definitely impressed.
    http://wwl-whatwelovetodo.blogspot.com/ . Whatwelovetodo seeks to encourage talents of Nigerian youths. This is our focus as well. Dreams die if they are not encouraged. You could send an e-mail to whatwelove7@gmail.com if you’ll like to be a part of us.
    There is hope for Nigeria.

  • jesutooni November 30, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    am overwhelmed thumbs up to you girls especially debola

  • Captalex December 19, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    Long Live Doregos Private Academy,
    I remember during our time , we created a a home automation device that allowed you to controls devices/applicances in your home with the convenience of just a mobile phone. Mr lawal still working his onions, we won the JETS competition that year and went to south Africa for the finals.

  • Marcia Mar December 29, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Genius!!!!!! Tell those wonderful intelligent young women that the wrold is proud of them and they are our future!!!!!
    With love and respect
    Marcia Mar

  • Paulo Seth December 29, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    I am 47 years old and an engineer by formation (but never by trade), yet I am not nearly as smart and determined as these 4 girls. God bless them! We desperately need people like them if this planet is to survive its short to medium term environmental challenges. Now, just another (barely related) thought… If 4 African teenagers can build an engine that uses urine as a power source based on a principles that are now almost 200 years old, who can 100% deny that zero point energy machines are impossible? Everything around us is energy and God hasn’t charged us anything for the use of Paradise (just love and respect to His values). Those very few power hungry and greedy human beings (supposedly) that control this planet’s energy matrix will never accept any free energy solution that could start a revolution is this forsaken planet of ours and put an end to their orgy.

  • Destiny Otto January 23, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Wat! I commend u girls. That’s very great of u. I pray and promise u that ur names will never be forgotten. No matter what, this project will be taken up. Well I’m also a very young scientist just the same age as u are. U girls have given Nigeria and the whole world a hope in the future and u have both inspired and motivated me. GOD will surely bless u all and make ur future ten times brighter than the sun.

  • mia February 19, 2013 at 11:40 am

    i sincerely hope the mediocre minds we have in the relevant ministries and parastatals will not kill the dreams of these sharp minds. Nigeria and our way of killing innovations. msheww

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