Over the last few years, I’ve truly benefited from watching my ideas and the lessons I’ve learned come to life. I’ve had experiences that have demonstrated that as long as I believe in myself, I can conquer any challenge. This has inspired me to create and innovate.

I was inspired to solve problems by a few extraordinary craftsmen with disabilities in my community who used low-cost tools and resources for their work. In my interactions with them, I noticed that they lacked an effective sharpening machine for their tools. The tools they used regularly – knives and other arts and crafts tools – would quickly wear out. I embraced this challenge as my own.

I love electronics, but how could I build circuit boards if my tools always broke down on me? I put myself in their shoes and thought that their disability should not interfere with pursuing their passion and their art. After speaking with them and going through a rigorous design process, I developed a manually operated sharpening machine that could sharpen any one of their tools. The machine consists of an iron frame, shaped like a pyramid to prevent sliding during operation. A foot pedal powers a rotating disc used to cut or sharpen the tools.

When I identified this issue, I submitted a proposal to Global Minimum’s Innovate Salone competition and had the opportunity to work with a team and mentor to create the prototype. It was an amazing experience because it was the first time I formally learned how to pick apart a problem, work with other innovators, and listen to how others interpret a problem and design a solution. It was wonderful to have a community of creative peers to help me when I was struggling with my prototype. There were moments when I thought I might not complete my prototype or thought that I could never build it to begin with – but the support system the competition provided helped me realize that I could leap over any hurdle.

Once I finally finished my grinding machine, a group of craftsmen visited my school in Kingtom, Freetown and tested it. I was overjoyed when my invention worked. It made it all worth it, and my confidence in my ability to create solutions jumped. Innovation is not only a great way to inspire change, but also a great way to inspire yourself to be better.