Kemisola Bolarinwa has been an innovator since he was a child. She still remembers her first eureka moment in high school, when she and a classmate designed a transistor radio for an inter-school competition.
Bolarinwa recalled, “Watching that radio work kindled a passion in me; I knew from that day forward that I would be an inventor.”
She was a member of the Junior Engineers, Technicians, and Scientists club at St Helen’s Unity Secondary School in Ondo when she was in secondary school (JETS). Bolarinwa had to compete with boys from other schools because she attended a girls’ school.
“I went to an all-girls school, and when we went to inter-school JETS club, the males always made it appear like girls weren’t smart enough, as if math and physics were developed for boys alone or that they understood it better,” Kemisola said.
These events necessitated a mental adjustment, and Bolarinwa had always believed in her own potential and equal opportunity.
Bolarinwa studied Electrical and Electronics Engineering at the University of Ado-Ekiti after secondary school; self-driven ideas are mostly self-taught.
Despite the difficulties, she grew interested in robotic engineering around this time. “In my engineering class, there was a propensity for most women to give up when we started as freshmen; [the class] had 11 women when we started, but there were only seven left before graduation,” she said.
Bolarinwa recounted how the desire to be different challenged and inspired her, and how she wanted to do the boys’ things despite how difficult they were.
“I climbed buildings and ladders like the boys; if they could do it, why couldn’t I? I was always pleading with them to let me do my own thing,” she explained.
Today, the Nigerian-born entrepreneur is working on her most important invention yet: a wearable smart bra for cancer screening and early diagnosis. An emotional occurrence sparked Bolarinwa’s interest in cancer prevention and therapy.
One of her favorite aunts died of breast cancer in 2017. While visiting her aunt at the University of Ibadan Teaching Hospital, Bolarinwa recalls witnessing other women in anguish. Bolarinwa recalled, “That day, I devoted myself to finding a solution to breast cancer.” “I confidently approached the doctor and inquired, ‘How can we stop this disease from spreading?’
“Watching the women, especially the young girls, broke my heart; their misery, helplessness, and resignation were too much for me to bear.
“We must all work together to end this sickness that is inflicting so much misery, not just for the afflicted, but also for those who care for them, including caretakers and doctors,” Bolarinwa says.
During her interaction with the doctor, Kemisola discovered that with early detection, 9 out of 10 women survive breast cancer.
She realized she had identified her next task at that point. “I’m doing this for women, but also for myself.” We must periodically check the breasts since early diagnosis is the key; we must make cancer screening more accessible,” she stated.
Breast cancer is the world’s most common malignancy, and it is estimated that 2.3 million African women have been diagnosed with it.
Bolarinwa collaborated with a femwear specialist, IT expert, embedded hardware expert, AI expert, software developer, and oncologist in 2019. They set out on a quest to discover a solution to the problem of late detection.
In 2021, Kemisola and her team developed a working prototype of a smart bra with sensors that can detect problems in the breast.
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