SeeBox shortlisted for the Innovation for Africa Prize
If the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) is any indication, innovation is alive and well in South Africa. For this fourth edition of the awards, some 925 entries from 41 countries have been whittled down to a shortlist of just 10 contenders – with no less than four of those coming from this country.
An initiative of the Africa Innovation Foundation (AIF), the IPA honours and encourages innovative achievements that contribute toward developing new products, increasing efficiency or saving cost in Africa. The prize also promotes among young African men and women the pursuit of science, technology and engineering careers as well as business opportunities with the potential of contributing to sustainable development in Africa. Specifically, the award targets technological breakthroughs in the primary areas of the manufacturing and service industry, health and well-being, agriculture and agribusiness, environment, energy and water, and information and communications technologies.
One of the hopefuls vying for the lion’s share of the $150 000 in prize money is none other than Johann Kok, the founder of specialist test and measurement supplier K Measure. Dataweek spoke to him to get the inside story on the development of the Scientific Engineering Education Box, or SeeBox.
“Research shows that there is a current worldwide shortage of electrical engineers and this shortage will worsen in the future,” Kok explains. “Yet in spite of knowing these facts, little is being invested to change this trend. This inspired the creation of the SeeBox. It has been shown that a young child learns new skills much easier than an adult. So it makes sense to teach people to think in a problem-solving way, like an engineer needs to think, at a young age.”
The system was designed to incorporate the six test instruments most often used by electronic engineers – oscilloscope, spectrum analyser, logic analyser, waveform generator, digital pattern generator and programmable power supply. This integration of functionality brings about a significant saving in cost, space and time, as well as possibilities for the integration of data, such as automatic event correlation, predictive measurements and smart analysis of serial busses. SeeBox was also designed to work with tablets and smartphones in addition to computers.
The SeeBox is expandable, accepting add-on hardware modules that give it functionality as a multimeter or LCR meter, for example. Whilst the SeeBox is a sophisticated professional test instrument in itself, it is accompanied by a whole ecosystem of educational material, all aimed at empowering institutions to prepare their students for a career in technology, and for tertiary educational institutions to use in the training of electronic engineers.
This ecosystem includes animated videos, experimental boards and practical tests, all of which can be logged against specific learner IDs to track performance and identify the most capable students, giving companies much more than academic results when looking to recruit the best qualified electrical engineers. An additional benefit is that these new recruits are already comfortable with the SeeBox interface and are therefore up running and productive far more quickly than in the past, if the company uses SeeBox as its preferred testing device.
This is not the first innovation by K Measure; the company has been doing new product development for the past three years, under the subsidiary ‘11 Ideas’. With a team of engineers boasting more than 90 years of experience in electronic design between them, the company has completed four new product designs for clients, one of which is already in mass production. K Measure plans to continue development on the SeeBox into the future, and anticipates enlarging its engineering team in due course.
The company engages the services of South African contract manufacturers Barracuda Holdings, Parsec and Sabertek, as well as printed circuit board suppliers Trax Interconnect and EDA Technologies. Although it aims to target a global market for the SeeBox, plans are to keep its production on South African soil.
- Article published in Dataweek, 20 May 2015
Top Innovation Awards for South African Inventor
Among the talented four South African who have been shortlisted for the prestigious Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) award and stand to win a shared prize of $150 000, is Johann Kok of K Measure, designer of the SeeBox. The IPA is an initiative of the Africa Innovation Foundation. Research shows that there is a current world wide shortage of electrical engineers, and that this shortage will worsen in the future. Yet, in spite of knowing these facts, it is said that little is being invested to change this trend. This inspired the creation of the SeeBox.
The SeeBox comes with a library of computer-animated educational videos, explaining the principles of electronics in a practical and very entertaining way to students of all ages and skill levels. After watching a training video, the student will apply what he has learned on a Playboard - the ecosystem of Playboards are a collection of expansions that enables learners to experiment and learn the principles of electronics, using real components. The SeeBox also comes standard with a unique lock mechanism, so it can be installed in classroom facilities where students can access the SeeBox unattended, leaving it safe and secure. The SeeBox supports both Android devices and Windows operating system. The students can bring their preferred device, connect it and run their tests in a jiffy.
- Article published in Engineer IT, May 2015