Kencho Wangdi, a BPC lineman, moonlights as an inventor
Innovator: After years of hard work, Kencho Wangdi’s innovation might finally pay off.
The 48-year-old average sized man ignites his “scootiller” engine and starts ploughing his field.
“It’s costly and typical to hire oxen to till the fields here,” he said. His scootiller does the job of a power tiller using a scooter’s engine.
It is not only his hobby to build simple, yet useful products out of scrap, but also a need of the hour.
Kencho Wangdi, originally from Wangduephodrang, settled in Gelephu, Khatoe gewog because his wife’s ancestors got land there under the resettlement program.
He joined the civil service in 1988 with the erstwhile department of power after studying till class V. Today he serves as a lineman for the Bhutan Power corporation.
Besides his profession, he loved scooters and started riding one in the early 1990s. Coincidentally, his friend started a scooter repair shop in Wangduephodrang, where he spent extra hours after office learning the trade until even he could repair the machines.
Kencho Wangdi has another trait that distinguishes him from the rest. When most people look at a handful of metals, they see trash. Not him. He sees the opportunity to innovate.
“When a scooter can carry two adults and ride across all road conditions, I have every reason to wonder why it can’t plough like a power tiller.”
But it took a little more than a couple of years for his ideas to materialise.
Fortunately, he was able to find a scooter, in running condition, being sold as scrap in a workshop. Without a second thought, he bought it for Nu 3,500.
He went to work almost immediately. “But a power tiller was all I wanted, and my objective was to transform a scooter into a power tiller,” Kencho Wangdi said.
He started gathering scrap metals to build a frame that could hold all the components.
Sometimes, he spent nights away from his family at the workshop, fabricating the chassis of his scootiller.
As his machine came together, it became more complicated to complete. He needed an accelerator, gear and brake. To make it even simpler, he welded the whole scooter’s handle bar to his machines. This served two purposes – to control the wheels, and to use the scooter’s gear and accelerator.
“But I couldn’t make the brakes.” Whenever Kencho needs to brake and bring his scootiller to a halt, he has to force the tiller’s rudder deep into the earth, and switch gears to neutral.
Kencho’s first attempt failed.
“I realised that I was using the scooter tyres as well, which wasn’t meant for the field,” he said. He noticed too that the tyres were slipping in the mud as he ploughed.
To solve this problem, he fabricated wheel rims and spokes of a bike to replicate the power tiller’s metal wheel. It worked and did a fine job, but not as powerful as a power tiller could.
“But all I’ve made is a crude structure, and I plan to develop it and give it a fine body,” he said.
Relatives and friends, who saw his scootiller, asked him to produce more. “My relatives in Bumthang asked me to make one for them, and they are of the opinion that it might work well in Bumthang because of the soil composition.”
Kencho Wangdi’s innovation does not end at this. He has already made a trailer, which can be attached to and towed by the engine. This, he said, would serve the purpose of transportation as well, but to ply it on a highway, a better tyre and brakes are needed. “I’m working on this.”
By Tshering Dorji