School teacher doubles as daring inventor
Tran Dinh Thuy lives a double life. During the day he’s busy
with his job teaching history at the local high school. But as soon as he
returns home, he is engrossed in very different work – inventing.
Thuy has sacrificed all his free time to feed his passion for
inventing. So far his innovations, including his self-heating cooking pot and an
iron water heater, have been warmly welcomed by local people.
Thuy was born in 1972 in the northern province of Thai Binh and
moved to Central Highland’s Kon Tum Province when he was three years old.
After returning from the army in 1996, Thuy studied history at Gia Lai Teacher’s
college and got a job teaching at Vinh Quang Secondary School.
So how did the school teacher come to be an inventor?
"Necessity is the mother of invention," Thuy says. "After getting
married seven years ago, I couldn’t afford to buy my wife a birthday present.
So I set to work designing a water heater that could be powered by the sun. It
was my first invention that actually came to fruition and has become popular
with many people in the province."
Thuy began dreaming of becoming an inventor when he was 14 years
old, he says. "Some of my more daring ideas included how to develop a gun
using magnets, an indestructible engine and an artificial diamond, but none of
them ever came to anything."
Since then, the self-proclaimed "science addict" has
never stopped wanting to invent things, Thuy says. "I jump at the chance to
read any new book on mechanics or physics, even though sometimes they can be
difficult to understand because I wasn’t trained in the sciences. It’s been
an interest of mine for so long. When I was in the army, my commander used to
call me ‘the princess in the tower" because I would spend all my free
time our barracks reading books about engines," Thuy laughs.
But after Thuy left the army and got married, his hobby did put
pressure on family time, he admits. "I’m really grateful to my wife for
putting up with me. She’s had to take all the responsibility for looking after
the children and watch me using up our savings to make my inventions, even money
we’ve borrowed from friends."
Two of Thuy’s most well-known inventions to be developed are
his self-heating cooking pot and solar-powered water heater.
Last March the cooking pot was registered for copyright
protection under the Intellectual Property Department belonging to the Ministry
of Science and Technology. The large bowl-shaped container is entirely
solar-powered and because it is portable, can be used for cooking or washing.
To heat larger volumes of water, Thuy developed his
solar-powered water heater. At first Thuy experimented with glass, aluminium and
stainless steel and finally decided on iron. "The machine is more durable
because of the different compartments that keep the iron casing, which absorbs
the heat, separate from the water," Thuy says. Currently this model is
being used for a trial period by 20 households in Kon Tum and Gia Lai Provinces,
including Thuy’s family. The invention has been a big hit so far, because it’s
half the price of similar machines on the market. The water heater received
third prize at the first Kon Tum Technical Creative Fair this year and was
displayed in the Central Highlands Technology and Equipment Fair 2008.
But Thuy’s creative desires do have their destructive side.
"Sometimes I forget the strain I put my wife and children under," he
admits. "When I’m engrossed in a new project, I forget that I’m the
backbone of the family who love me very much. It saddens me to think of the
stress I cause them."
According to Thuy, his family’s encouragement and support are
his biggest motivating forces. "Just a little encouraging smile from my
wife is enough for me. She has really supported me and I owe her a lot. I live
in the hope that one day my inventions will be able to make money for our
family. But to do that I need capital," he says. "My biggest ambition
at the moment is to get sponsorship for my inventions so I can build a small
workshop where I can build my inventions. To do that, I intend to present my
ideas about a tubular-shaped hydroelectric station to the local authorities. The
machine would really help our country be more energy efficient," he
It seems lack of funds hasn’t done much to dampen Thuy’s
creative energy and with the help of his family, he is confident he is going to
realise his dreams. "People can do anything, all you need is to believe in
yourself and have patience." — VNS