Project Tontro: Inspiring Maker’s Community in Ghana

Meet Roll-E : a programmable obstacle avoiding robot. Designed by the Tontro project and made with an Arduino microcontroller, scrap CD drive parts and two roll on deodorants

On Saturday’s fortnightly, the Science Lab of the Cosmos Basic School located at Lapaz, Accra serves host to a collective of young technology enthusiasts tinkering with various microcontrollers and electrical components. Benedict Quartey C2018, founder of the initiative — Project Tontro — pioneering this High School Maker Movement hopes that beyond all the fun tinkering, these young makers will be ignited with a flame of curiosity and innovation which can be channelled into creative problem solving.

The name Project Tontro is inspired by a maker subculture that already exists in Ghana. Ghanaian kids have had a long tradition of building cars out of tin and flip-flops locally referred to as Tontro cars. Project Tontro aims at building on top of this already existing maker ecosystem, a layer of innovation that takes full advantages of the steady drop in the price-performance of computer hardware. Leveraging on the proliferation of sensor, motors and microcontrollers such as the Arduino, this initiative has started high school kids off on robotics, by having them programme autonomous Tontro cars.

Currently being funded by the Ashesi-Ford Grant, Project Tontro is presently being piloted at the Cosmos Basic School, Benedict’s Alma Mater. Project Tontro’s curriculum has been carefully designed to incorporate activities and lessons in Design Thinking and Creative Problem Solving. At the end of this pilot the participants will have been equipped with skills which they will then employ to work on Arduino projects of their choosing.

Benedict Quartey (c2018) demonstrating a circuit connection to students at the Cosmos Basic School Lapaz, Accra

Benedict and his team at the moment are working with 20 Junior High School students at the Cosmos Basic School. The project has future ambitions of expanding to remote areas in Ghana; establishing maker communities aimed at equipping people with hands-on knowledge of technology. These network of makers will serve as a vehicle Project Tontro intends to deploy in spreading curiosity and creative inspiration which are necessary enablers in harnessing technology to solve society’s challenges.

Globally Maker Faires have been very useful in providing avenues for makers globally to collaborate as well as explore market viability of some of their inventions. All over the world Maker Faires are gaining popularity and Maker Communities are increasingly getting vibrant. From 2012 up until now, there have been over 400 Maker Faires organized around the world. These Maker Faires are going a long way in championing and promoting the inventions of makers globally while also serving as an effective revenue generator for the maker community.

Project Tontro fits into a world-wide network of Global Makers who have opted to use technology at their disposal to empower their societies and communities. The Project Lead — Benedict — an avid tinkerer himself, with a work plan for building a 3D printer made mostly of 3D printed parts is optimistic that Ghana could be filled with young people the likes of Da Vinci and Tesla, who will not be afraid to dream solutions that will truly transform Ghana and Africa as a whole.

Written by: Kabiru Seidu — Projects Assistant Office of Student and Community Affairs