Earlier this year, a 17 year-old student in the capital city of Ghana became a viral sensation with his scratch-built, solar-powered electric scooter.  Featured on activist Efo Selasi’s Youtube channel, the video of Samuel Aboagye has already garnered more than 300K views.  With a talent for engineering and resourcefulness, this young Ghanaian built the scooter entirely from scrap wood, salvaged parts and a small motor borrowed from his mother’s sewing machine.  Samuel even included a bluetooth speaker system with the help of his high school teacher, Sam Hagan, and has dreams of furthering his education so he can help his family and community, and help solve some of humanity’s problems.  As part of a Motorcycle Arts Foundation initiative to support youth interest in alternative transport, we contacted Samuel for an interview.  It was the first step of engaging Samuel, his teacher Sam Hagan, and videographer Efo Selasi in a partnership to further Samuel’s education, and investigate creative transport solutions in Ghana.  We hope to include Samuel’s home-built scooter in our upcoming Petersen Museum exhibit next May: stay tuned for details on The Vintagent’s all-electric news feed, The Current.

The Vintagent:  What inspired you to create a solar powered electric scooter?

Samuel:  There has been a significant rise in petroleum usage in my country.  After learning about solar energy in a physics lesson, I was inspired to combine my knowledge and talents to create a machine that is powered by solar energy. Fortunately, energy from the sun is always available and free of charge.

How did the project come about? Did you learn how to build in school or somewhere else? Or do you just have a natural inclination for mechanical engineering? 

My science teacher, Mr. Sam Hagan recognized that I had a talent even though I am very quiet in class. He gave us science sets from Dext Technologies and then asked us to create something. I gained so much practical knowledge when I started using the science set. He has been so inspirational to me in terms of encouragement, guidance and making funds available for my projects.

Where did you get the materials?

I got some of the materials from picking apart old gadgets I found and my teacher also gave me some supplies.

You even connected a bluetooth speaker. That is amazing. Can you talk a bit about that?

The Bluetooth speaker is the first major work that went viral on national television (Joy Prime, TV3).  I won a laptop and a Wi-Fi device from Vodafone Ghana for that. It has become a kind of trade mark for me so I always like to connect one to whatever I build. It comes with an SD card slot, USB port and an ear plug.  Music can be played directly from phones connected via Bluetooth and can connect to most radio stations in Ghana. It is powered by a wet cell.

Samuel Aboagye with his wooden, scratch-built, solar-powered electric scooter. [Efo Selasi]
What kind of tools did you use to build the scooter?

I used simple tools such as a saw, hammer, knife, screwdriver and pliers.

What do you use the scooter for and Is there anything you would do to improve the model?

It is a means of transport especially for people with amputated legs since one only needs his or her hands to operate. Yes, if I could learn programming, I would create a model that can compete very well in the market.

What else have you built?  And are they solar powered as well?

I have built a bluetooth speaker, an electronic washing machine called a Veronica bucket, and a vacuum cleaner, all powered by cell.  I am currently working on a tricycle which will be powered by solar and cell.

Can you explain a bit more about the Veronica Bucket you made? I think not many people know what that is.

This type of bucket was named after Madam Veronica Bekoe in 1993. Back then, it was just a bucket filled with water. Because Covid came around and was so dangerous,  I wanted to help limit the rate of viral contact by inventing this electronic bucket where water and soap are operated only by foot.  The Veronica Bucket is powered by both solar and cells.

In the YouTube video, you said you wanted to build a car?  If you can get the funds, will that be your next project?

If I can get the funds or a sponsorship, my first priority is to go to a reputable engineering school.  This will help me build my knowledge base so that I will be able to build the car.

Samuel’s escooter is fully funtional, has lights for night riding, and plays music! [Efo Selasi]
How does your mother feel about you taking her sewing machine motor?

At first, she was furious and sad, but when she saw my interview and the inventions, she felt much happier. She always tells me to be strong and hope for a day that there will be smiles in the house because my inventions are going to far parts of the world.

How did you meet the YouTube star, Efo Selasi?

I met Efo Selaisi through a friend when I was testing out the scooter.

How do you feel about being a YouTube sensation?

I feel very happy and humbled. It also gives me the extra encouragement to do more.

What is the most interesting thing that has happened since the video went viral?

Most of my school mates and friends who saw me as a quiet and dull person are now beginning to appreciate the talent I have.

How do your family, friends and community feel about it?

They feel very proud and happy to be associated with me and my inventions.

Would you eventually like to continue with engineering at university?

 I would like to enroll in an engineering school but unfortunately, my father has passed away and my mother is unemployed at the moment, so this plan currently just remains a dream for me.

Samuel built his scooter from scrap: firewood and thrown-out electrical pieces, plus the motor from his mother’s sewing machine. That he made it all work is testament to his determination and skill. [Efo Selasi]
What is your next project?

The next project I am working on is building a tricycle but it has stalled due to lack of money. I am waiting to see if my teacher can find some funds to help me finish it.

In the video, you speak about wanting to help people in Ghana with employment.  Can you speak a bit more about your dreams of having your own company?

The long term aim is to set up my own engineering company.  I hope to embark on creating various kinds of machine inventions and by doing so, creating employment for  other gifted, but needy individuals.

We are very impressed by your skills and talent Samuel, and would like to include your scooter in an electric vehicle exhibit focusing on designers at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. We would be interested in purchasing your scooter!  Also, if we provide you with the parts to build another scooter, would you build another for us before April 2022?

Thank you very much for your compliment and acknowledgement. I will be very honored if my scooter is selected for the exhibition. If all necessary parts are placed at my disposal, I have no doubt in my mind that I would be able to build another before April, 2022.

The construction of the scooter’s body is very simple, but effective. Samuel would like to build version 2.0, but needs help. If you care to donate funds, we can forward them via our 501c3 non-profit Motorcycle Arts Foundation: contact us here. [Efo Selasi]
We also interviewed Samuel’s science teacher, Sam Hagan, for his thoughts on Samuel’s rise to prominence through a viral Youtube video:

The Vintagent: When did you have Samuel in your class and which class was he in?

Sam Hagan: Samuel was admitted into Aggrey Road’2’ Junior High school (JHS1), Tema-Ghana in  September 2018 and I have been teaching him Integrated Science until now.

Did you help him build his scooter? And what did you help him with?

I provided him with technical, financial and moral guidance. He asks for my help when he has questions about the dynamics of electrical flow and charges and to help the  scooter operate.

Did you notice his abilities / skills right away?  What did you notice about his abilities?

Samuel is quiet in class and doesn’t contribute much, but right from the start, I noticed something unique about him, so I decided to keep a close eye on him. I often come across him with old electrical gadgets such as a radio set, a torch light or mobile phones trying to fix them or connect their parts to make something unique. I knew he had some sort of engineering talent so I included him in a group of twenty students who had a special talent.

The small solar panel sits on the back of the scooter, so it charges while parked with no need for an outlet. [Efo Selasi]
What do you think of the scooter?

The scooter will help people with ‘amputated legs’ have easy access to transportation without any help from someone. It is a problem solving invention.

Are you helping Samuel with any other projects?

Yes, I am currently helping him to build a tricycle. We are halfway through.

What do you think about Samuel’s future?

Samuel has a bright future with engineering as a focus but to make it a reality will mean him being able to go to a good engineering school to acquire extra knowledge. Combining knowledge with talent will help him come up with great inventions he hopes will help solve some of our humanity’s problems.

How much money do you think Samuel might need to help him further his education? Or to start his own business?

Samuel’s education is key at the moment. The amount of money can’t quite be quantified now because factors such as the kind of course he is offered, the country where the school is located, the period of study all will play a factor. To further his education in a country where renowned engineers and engineering schools are located would be a dream come true for Samuel.

Note: If you are interested in supporting the Motorcycle Arts Foundation’s mission to support youth involvement in transport solutions, contact our Director of Educational Initiatives, Nadia Amer,  here.

 

Nadia Amer is a San Francisco-based writer, filmmaker, and storyteller. When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out with her kids and dog, hoping to intersect curiosity with art. She is also Director of Educational Initiatives with the Motorcycle Arts Foundation.

 

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