They might have stopped me from taking off but I still believe I can fly, Meru University student who designed helicopter

In April 2014, Erick-Paul Karanja was in the process of preparing for what would have been his first flight when the local authorities stopped him.

The 20 year old student of Meru University had designed a homemade helicopter from scratch. He was moments away from taking to the sky, with a large audience cheering him on at Karagita airstrip in Naivasha. It was not to be, however. Police stopped the ‘pre-flight checks’, deeming the exercise illegal.

It was a disappointing end for Karanja. He had spent the better part of one semester designing the helicopter. He had even deferred his studies to focus on the project.

“It was all I wanted to do, since I was a child,” he says. “I come from a very humble background. As a child, I would look up and see planes in the sky, and it made me want to fly. So it was definitely frustrating that this did not to pass.”

Karanja would experience even more frustration. The incident garnered him a lot of attention. Several people reached out to him offering to help him, including a senior Nakuru county official but nobody provided him the opportunity he needed, so he opted to return to school. The experience had sobered him, but his dream was still very much alive.

“The intervention by the authorities showed me that I had something big, a good idea. I decided to focus on my education until I could get back to it some day.”

Today, Erick-Paul has just completed his Computer Science degree at Meru University. He has also been taking online classes on app development with Udacity and Coursera.

His most notable foray into the world of app development is Urban Campus app, the android application he designed for his university.

The app is basically a ‘campus-news’ tool, focused mainly on reaching maximum students with new information such as Fees Updates, Nominal Roll Signing, New Timetable alerts and the like. It has a Console back-end where the university admin can post new notifications and also a blog page where they can describe in detail the new notification and what is supposed to be done, by who.

The aim of the app project is to implement a seamless, high-performing, fast and responsive mobile platform between the administration and the student body with prompt information relay between both parties in the shortest period possible. Since its launch in February, it attracted 755 downloads within the first 3 weeks and has been growing daily (12-26 users daily) to 48 per cent of the entire student population.

According to Karanja, Urban Campus App is just a start for him. App development is almost a hobby.

“I am always looking to get back to my dream, which is to fly. Now that I’m done with school, there’s nothing stopping me from flying for Virgin Air.”