Brima Manso Bangura, a Watson Institute freshman from West Africa’s Sierra Leone, has his sights set on altering the perception of electricity in his homeland and internationally.
Bangura’s father serves an IT technician, which would lead his son to develop a fascination with building gadgets from scraps for amusement at a young age. In fact, one of Bangura’s initial projects came when he was eight-years-old.
“My mom is a nurse and her job was too hot, so I thought I’d make a fan to help keep her cool,” said Bangura.
He first began working with the parts from power supply units, components that convert electrical currents and sometimes even store a charge. Bangura would dismantle and reconnect an onboard fan to create a portable, battery-operated fan for his mother.
Bangura’s greatest project, the one he considers most prominent, was built when he was 15-years-old.
“Where I grew up, electricity wasn’t constant,” he said. “When it came, you’d see people dancing with joy.”
With this lack of electricity, students would be forced to study for school next to candles and kerosene lamps. Hoping to address this issue, Bangura sought to build something that would help him study better.
He began with a simple sketch for a power generator that could be built with the resources around him. Using bicycles as his foundation, Bangura created a bike-powered generator and power storage mechanism over the course of a month.
After collecting materials from a local scrap yard and working to purchase the remaining necessities, Bangura spent what would roughly be 250,000 leones, the local currency , on supplies.
“When I built the generator, it gained attention all over the country,” said Bangura.
Despite this national attention, he continued to focus on his schoolwork per his father’s direction. Between the national attention and his academic success, Bangura earned a scholarship to study in South Africa at the African Leadership Academy (ALA).
Bangura studied at ALA for two years. While there, he formed an innovation club called Makey Makey, with a founding purpose to train students to be conscious of innovation and creative solutions.
During that time, Bangura also researched carbon monoxide, odorless and colorless gas. He realized that many of the health issues people in Sierra Leone attributed to witchcraft were actually the result of carbon monoxide poisoning from light sources or cooking fires.
Bangura explained that a lack of awareness of carbon monoxide was not the problem, though. The actual problem would be found as a lack of electricity, causing people to turn to unsafe sources of light and heat.
After graduating from ALA, Bangura was invited to study aerospace engineering in Daytona Beach.
“I wasn’t given a scholarship, so I took a gap year to raise money,” he said. During that time, Bangura took part in BUILD-in-a-Box, a camp that taught students the BUILD process created by ALA.
Bangura also received an award from the Queen of England. Last June, he went to Buckingham Palace to receive the Silver Medal Award. He also went on a tour of Cambridge, BBC World Headquarters, Facebook London, Instagram Europe HQ and Number 10 Downing Street (British Parliament).
From his trip to Britain, Bangura received a recommendation letter to the Watson Institute. As a Watson student, he is using his familiarity with electricity as a focal point.
“I realize that electricity is a major issue, especially for students to study,” said Bangura. “I want to see how best I can create something to help with the problem. I think America has the right resources available to me. Here, I’ll be able to utilize even more resources than I did back home.”
Now in his second semester at Lynn, Bangura looks to build off of his wide-ranging experiences in Africa. Via his studies, he hopes to transform how electricity is perceived throughout the continent.