Feature
Recipient of the Prime Minister’s National Youth Award for Excellence in the category of Innovation in Science and Technology, Yekini Wallen-Bryan.

Story Highlights

  • More than 3,000, three-dimensional (3-D) face shields have been donated to the public healthcare sector since the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Jamaica, through PreeLabs Limited, an automated solutions and product development company headed by young entrepreneur, Yekini Wallen-Bryan.
  • He has also managed two of the world’s largest data-collection platforms, deployed to more than 50 countries, in 40 languages, for more than 1.5 million users.
  • This year’s awards ceremony was celebrated under the theme ‘Youth: Resilient through Entrepreneurship, Training, Hope Innovation, Networking and Knowledge (RETHINK)’.

More than 3,000, three-dimensional (3-D) face shields have been donated to the public healthcare sector since the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Jamaica, through PreeLabs Limited, an automated solutions and product development company headed by young entrepreneur, Yekini Wallen-Bryan.

In a bid to aid Jamaica in tackling the crisis, the 26-year-old Chief Executive Officer (CEO), along with four other innovative young people he has employed, brainstormed to come up with solutions to some of the challenges the crisis has brought.

The five, combined, have 10 years of experience in embedded systems design, robotics, programming, and product development.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, we, at PreeLabs have been trying to figure out how it is that we can use our skill sets and resources in a way that can benefit Jamaica in making us more resilient in a time of crisis. One of the things that we have come up with is 3-D printed face shields,” Mr. Wallen-Bryan tells JIS News.

3-D printing is a manufacturing method that creates a physical object from a digital design. The process involves laying down thin layers of material in the form of liquid or powdered plastic, metal or cement, and then fusing the layers together. It is faster, less expensive, and enables the production of complex shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.

The team of young persons, whose ages range from 23 to 29 years old, have also designed, manufactured and supplied handwashing stations to sites all over the island.

“We have also built an emergency ventilator that can provide ventilation in times of emergency to our healthcare sector,” Mr. Wallen-Bryan adds.

It is in recognition of Mr. Wallen-Bryan’s outstanding work and contribution to national development through his company that he has been awarded the Prime Minister’s National Youth Awards for Excellence in the category of Innovation in Science and Technology.

He is among three awardees in the category. The others are Joel Dean and Rayvon Stewart.

Recipient of the Prime Minister’s National Youth Award for Excellence in the category of Innovation in Science and Technology, Joel Dean.

 

Recipient of the Prime Minister’s National Youth Award for Excellence in the category of Innovation in Science and Technology, Rayvon Stewart.

 

Mr. Wallen-Bryan, who has a double-major degree in Electronics and Energy and Environmental Physics from the University of the West Indies (UWI), says that through Preelabs, he is seeking to make Jamaica more COVID-19 and climate-resilient.

The company, which was registered in 2016, and began full operations in 2019, aims to empower businesses and individuals by helping them manage their processes, environment and resources more efficiently and sustainably, using Internet-enabled systems and other solutions, thereby saving time, money and resources.

“One of the things that PreeLabs has been doing is building systems to help people manage their resources more effectively both in energy, water and otherwise,” Mr. Wallen-Bryan tells JIS News.

“Jamaican innovation can set the tone for how we approach problems unique to our own region and the global community as we look to build a more efficient and sustainable future for all,” the CEO adds.

He says “it feels amazing and it is a genuine honour” to have received the Prime Minister’s Youth Award.

“I would like to thank the Prime Minister for acknowledging my accomplishments and I really hope that it inspires other young people to do great things as well,” he adds.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, in his address at the virtual awards ceremony held earlier this month, said that young persons will play a key part in the recovery of the country through their continued impactful contributions.

“In the midst of all that is taking place globally and locally, and in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, our young people have shown us that they are highly innovative and can adapt to change. They are well able to join in ‘building forward together’ for a better and stronger Jamaica,” he noted.

Meanwhile, CEO of Xermosol Supply Limited, Rayvon Stewart, who was also an award recipient in the category of Innovation in Science and Technology, has invented a simple-to-install device that automatically disinfects door knobs and handles after each use.

The innovation uses ultraviolet light to target and specifically kill harmful bacteria and viruses, while being harmless to human beings.

Mr. Stewart tells JIS News that his company was first conceptualised during his time volunteering at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) for two and a half years.

“During this time, I saw some of the harmful effects of both viruses and bacteria and made a vow to find a solution for this issue,” he says.

He informs that the self-sanitising device can be easily added to any existing door handle, and has been proven to kill more than 99.9 per cent of the most deadly pathogens.

Tests carried out in conjunction with the University of Technology (UTech) and UWI show that the Xermosol device destroys organisms such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body, E-coli, and destroys viral cells such as influenza virus H1N1.

“It is my aim to contribute to Jamaica in a big way, and Xermosol is just the beginning .We have other inventions in the pipeline that will be able to help our average person,” Mr. Stewart tells JIS News.

The young CEO’s work has received recognition internationally and he was among the finalists shortlisted for the Commonwealth Health Innovation Awards last year.

Notably, in a blog written by Commonwealth Secretary General, Baroness Patricia Scotland in March, she stated that his invention could greatly help in containing the spread of viruses like COVID-19.

Mr. Stewart also took part in an exhibition on the theme ‘Universal Health Coverage: Reaching the unreached, ensuring that no one is left behind,’ which highlighted how young people are tackling age-old challenges with modern technology and disruptive thinking.

In addition to health facilities, Mr. Stewart hopes his device could help reduce transmission of germs in other public spaces such as schools and businesses.

The third recipient of the youth award in the Innovation in Science and Technology category, 27-year-old Senior Software Engineer at Automattic, Joel Dean, also expressed his appreciation for the award.

“I feel very encouraged and motivated to be recognised by the Prime Minister. I have long been one of the biggest supporters of national development and of just showcasing the skill sets that Jamaica has.

“It is a blessing that I am able to showcase our proficiency in software engineering and development and it just goes to show that the youth of Jamaica can accomplish anything they put their minds to,” he tells JIS News.

Mr. Dean says he is proud to be a part of Automattic, the company behind blogging platforms WordPress.com and Tumblr, noting that WordPress helps to power more than 38 per cent of the Internet which equates to over 135 million websites.

“I am proud to say I am one of the software engineers helping to power the next generation of blogging,” he says.

He notes that from “an app development standpoint”, his most distinct contribution in Jamaica is the pothole positioning system, which is an app he created in 2012 to address the issue of finding potholes.

“So how the app works is, you put your phone on your dashboard, and when you fall into a pothole, the phone detects it. Once the phone detects this pothole, it saves it to your phone and when other persons [who have installed the app on their phones] are driving, they will hear: ‘You’re now approaching a pothole, proceed with caution’,” he explains.

Described as a tech mogul-in-the-making, Mr. Dean has more than 10 years’ experience building applications for iPhones, Android phones, and computers. He has built several tech startups and lead Android development efforts, providing solutions even in the most remote areas of the world.

He has also managed two of the world’s largest data-collection platforms, deployed to more than 50 countries, in 40 languages, for more than 1.5 million users.

Mr. Dean is an active member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers and also the lead organiser for the Google Developers Group Kingston.

The three innovators are among 30 young persons in 12 categories who were chosen as recipients of the Prime Minister’s National Youth Awards for Excellence.

A total of 68 nominees were shortlisted in the areas of agriculture and agri-processing, entrepreneurship and social enterprise, journalism and e-journalism, art and culture, leadership, environmental protection, sports, nation-building, academics, innovation in science and technology, youth development, and international achievement.

This year’s awards ceremony was celebrated under the theme ‘Youth: Resilient through Entrepreneurship, Training, Hope Innovation, Networking and Knowledge (RETHINK)’.

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