Nigerian kids develop app to checkmate underage e-cigarette users

The RET Innovate team, Egie Jude Akede (left); Rotimi David Adegbiji; and Oluwatunmise David Ayeni.
Qualify for Conrad Challenge finals in Florida
Three senior school one (SS1) students of Dansol High School, Agidingbi, Lagos, Oluwatunmise David Ayeni, Rotimi David Adegbiji and Egie Jude Akede, have come up with an innovative idea on how to reduce smoking of e-cigarette in the United States (U.S).The application called “Vape Pen Selling App” is targeted at dealers and retailers of vape pen in America. Vape pen is another name for e-cigarette/tobacco.

The team, with company name “RET Innovate,” said the solution would help vape pen retailers in the U.S to identify the age of prospective buyers, flag ineligible and underage smokers, and also serve as a source of smoking history for regulatory agencies and hospitals.

The team participated in the 2018-2019 Conrad Challenge under the Foundation’s Smoke-Free World category. Having qualified for the finals, they will represent Nigeria in Florida next month. The team will compete alongside other students across the globe at the 2019 Innovation Summit at Kennedy Space Center visitor complex in Florida, where they will pitch their innovations to a distinguished panel of industry expert juries and compete for the foundation’s top honour.

The winning team would receive awards, seed funding grants, investment opportunities, patent support, business services and scholarships to support the growth of the concepts into real business that can make real difference.The challenge offers students opportunity to become entrepreneurs and apply innovation, science and technology to solve global problems through their teachers’ guide. The Conrad Challenge brings science and technology studies to life through student-driven and project-based approach.

The students, in a chat with The Guardian, said they are determined to use innovative ideas to solve real life problems.Speaking on their roles as business partners, Ayeni, the Chief Executive Officer said, “My responsibilities include managing communication and assigning role to every member in line with their skills and passion. I also drive major decisions of the company. I have special interest in developing technology and I aspire to be a software or robotics engineer.

Adegbiji, the Chief Operating Officer, said, “I handle the day to day operations of the company. I delegates duties to members of staff and ensure each task is carried out with precision and according to plan. I enjoy being creative and profiling solutions to chemistry questions and I aspire to be an aeronautic engineer.”

For Akede, “as the Chief Marketing Officer I am responsible for advertising and public relations to increase the awareness of our company and products. I have passion in sales and marketing of innovative products.”He said inexperience in business operations and finance are some of the early challenges the team had to overcome.

The team coach, Mr. Tochi Nkwocha said the solution allows retailers or dealers of e-cigarette to register with the application and then link it to the U.S database. “The database provides information of everybody in the US. So if you register as a dealer, if somebody wants to purchase e-cigarette from your shop, all you need to do is simply collect the Social Security Number (SSN) and verify the name and age of the person. If the person is under 18, he/she will be flagged ineligible to buy the e-cigarette. Immediately, there will be a pop-up display on the screen, displaying information about the person, of course with that the dealer/retailer cannot sell to the young person who is not up to 18.

“The solution will immediately stop that transaction from taking place. In a situation whereby an adult buys the e-cigarette for the younger person, we are also proposing that subsequently manufacturers of this vape pens will put a barcode number to the product. If this is done, the application will be able to scan that barcode, which will automatically identify the first buyer. It will not only flag the first buyer, but will also help the federal agencies in terms of investigation.

He continued, “Also, if we have a user who is above or below 18, and its having respiratory issues, which could also be as a result of smoking, by the time the hospital logs into the application, with the SSN of the patient, they will capture his smoking history which will help in seeking easy remedy for the patient.”Nkwocha said the application would also be useful in schools as school managers could use it to trail incidents of underage smoking. He expressed optimism that the students will lift the country’s flag high at the competition.

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