Maxwell Collins is a stellar example of a young bright kid who identified pressing challenges in his own community, and decided to do something about it. In the wake of Kenya’s 2007 Post election violence, he decided to combat voter fraud by building his own tamperproof voting Machine.
- by Isabell Eischeid and Francis Meyo, 17th May 2013, Kisumu .
As we pull up the car on the bumpy road behind Yala town, chasing away chicken and passing rows of clothes drying in the sun, it is difficult to imagine that this is the home of one of the brightest innovators Kenya has seen. Maxwell Collins, 21 years, lives in Nyanza Province (Western Kenya). Although he is too old to participate in the Innovate Kenya competition, the Innovate Kenya team decided to visit him, to see his rad inventions and to motivate him to become an ambassador for the Innovate Kenya movement.
We had come to see his electronic voting machine, but when we sat down in his living room he not only showed us his machine, but also a couple of other inventions he had been working on lately. There is the infrared alarm system that will go off if an intruder is passing an invisible barrier and various LED light systems that will automatically turn on once day light is fading.
His voting machine, a master piece of invention and electric work, is carefully placed in the bedroom. Upon the question where he is now sleeping we just receive a chuckle. Maxwell is not a student at some elite university with endless resources available to him. This becomes very apparent when we squeeze into the small bedroom, carefully listening to his explanations. He does not have any professional help nor is he provided with tools and equipment. Instead, he uses scrap materials and simple electrical wires to teach himself what he needs to know for his new projects and does not stop until he has succeeded. Maxwell admits that some parts of the voting machine he destroyed up to five times in order to build something new that would function better.
The voting machine is a light sensitive apparatus that integrates the entire voting process into one circuit. First, the voter’s hand is scanned for ink, to detect whether the person has already voted. If the hand if ink free it gets marked with special ink. Then, an individualized voter chip and fingerprint test activates the actual voting process. The way the machine is set up right now, it allows you to vote between two different people or options. Once the voting has been completed an automatic tallying system adds up the votes AND has the ability to send the information to a centralized tallying centre. This helps to reduce the chances of fraud and many of us may wish this system will be used during the next Kenyan election. However, this is not the end of the story. Maxwell also proudly describes how differently abled people can cast their votes using voice recognition alone. Braille voting tabs even allow the blind to cast their votes independently.
Maxwell , a shy and humble young man, explains to us that electrical work is his passion and that he has started to play around with it, when he was still a young boy. One may wonder why he has not been seriously acknowledged for his work yet. At Science Congress competitions, he was never selected to be a finalists because the judges simply would not believe that this was his work alone. Lack of financial means prevented him from pursuing a career at University. His proud mother, Hellen Adhiambo, admits to us that Maxwell is a weird kid. “Instead of trying to commercializing his inventions he always strides for more and better things. He is a true scientist, constantly worried to make the next project better than the one before. He is always eager to learn and won’t settle for the simple things. We hope that this will be recognized soon.”
Inspired by Maxwell’s passion and determination we leave his place and are proud to announce that he will be one of the Ambassadors of Innovate Kenya, ready to inspire other young minds!