School teacher doubles as daring inventor

Update: June, 08/2008 - 00:00

School teacher doubles as daring inventor

Water power: Tran Dinh Thuy poses with his two acclaimed inventions; his solar-powered water heater and self-heating water pot. — VNS File Photo


History teacher Tran Dinh Thuy spends his spare time dreaming up new inventions and making them come true. Van Nga finds out how.

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."

Warming up

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.

Pressure cooker

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 enthuses.

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