Concept scoops top prize and funding
Come rain or shine, Trever Colvelle has just the right brolly for you.
Trever – who is from Bulwer area and matriculated at KwaMcane High School in 2010 – has come up with the award winning idea to develop a multi-purpose solar umbrella. His invention provides power for small household appliances, such as two-plate stoves and reading lights, but can also be used as an umbrella in the rain. And, of course, it charges when the sun is blazing, while providing cover for the user.
Trever’s unique idea saw him win the Ithala-Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) Inkunz’isematholeni Youth in Business Competition late last year, which comes with R250 000 to assist with development, protection of intellectual property, marketing etc.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing for Trever, who was a humble pupil at his school near Bulwer. Like many other kids around KZN, he spent hours gathering firewood and water to keep the home going – grinding chores which would later provide much inspiration for his work.
He worked hard, scoring five distinctions in matric and securing funding from the NSFAS scheme for his studies at UKZN, Pietermaritzburg.
There Trever found inspiration in his agro meteorology studies, from Professor Michael Savage, in particular.
“The prof’s entire lab was powered by solar. Previously I thought solar energy was for big farms and businesses, I didn’t realise people used it to power appliances in the home.”
By 2016, when he graduated, Trever was ready to work on his own solar idea.
Then came another important event in his journey. Ithala held a roadshow in Pietermaritzburg at which he learnt about the Inkunz’isematholeni Youth in Business Competition.
“ I didn’t waste time,” he says. “I downloaded the forms and submitted them.”
In October 2016 he was notified that he was part of a group of 20 who would attend a boot camp.
Although Trever was not considered for the top finalists for 2016, he says he learnt from his mistakes, remained determined to succeed and entered again last year.
The proudly Midlands former student scooped the top prize and, crucially, access to business support, advice and financing.
“My upbringing in a village is why this means so much to me. To be able to develop the Solar Nexus would be such an achievement for me. Using paraffin and primus stoves is risky, this solar umbrella could make a real difference to people’s lives. That’s special to me,” he says.
Trever has been hard at work with Prof Ian Lazarus of DUT’s physics department developing the product, after the TIA suggested DUT as a partner.
And while he is already working on his next bright idea, it’s only a matter of time before this solar innovator’s star will be shining bright at retailers across the country.