Student innovation saves 9-year old girl’s life

01 June 2018

Imagine how powerless you would feel if you were unable to provide for your child’s life support. This is what Tshepiso Mashubuku, a 29-year-old single mother, experienced because of her daughter, Koketso (9), who suffers from pulmonary bronchitis and needs oxygen therapy 24/7.

The technologist, Giscard Binini, explaining to the family how tooperate the device.

The Tshwane University of Technology’s Department of Electrical Engineering (DEE) and the Centre for Energy and Electronic Power (CEEP) came to the family’s rescue. A group of students designed a concept and implemented a solar system, which generates the desperately needed power to keep the machine going. Since the Mashubuku family had no access to electricity, they offered them a solar system to continuously charge the oxygen machine as well as batteries for energy storage.

Reuben Shongwe, a technician at the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (FEBE), brought the plight of the family to the attention of the DEE and CEEP. Prof Josiah Munda, Assistant Dean of the Faculty and Head of DEE and Dr Olawale Popoola, Director of CEEP, assisted the students to design the system, relieving the family of this life threatening challenge. 

Koketso’s grandmother, Sophie Mashubuku, said in the past she had to walk 4km to charge the machine. She explained that it was important for Koketso to be in a warm place at all times. She said the solar system changed their lives tremendously. “Since we received this donation, the doctors are very pleased with the improvement in Koketso’s health,” she added.

Mashubuku is the only breadwinner and keeping the oxygen machine charged used to put a huge financial strain on the family. Koketso uses two different machines to breathe. When she is feels ill they use the larger machine and the smaller one is for daily use.

Many of the students involved, who worked on the project, come from the area where the Manala tribe under King Makhosonke II leadership live. Titus Mofokeng, personal assistant to the chief, thanked the University on behalf of the king, expressing the hope that the students will continue to help their people. 

TUT’s Advancement and Partnerships Office assisted with funding for the project. DEE and CEEP provided additional financial support.

The CEEP team with Koketso and her family.

For more information on the Tshwane University of Technology, please contact Willa de Ruyter, Corporate Affairs and Marketing.
Tel: +27 12 382 5352   Email: