His toy-inspired idea can save thousands of Afghan lives


Friday 4 January 2013

Childhood toys lost in a war-torn field have inspired an odd-looking invention like a giant dandelion seed head which its young Dutch inventor hopes can help save thousands of lives and limbs in his native Afghanistan.

Decades of war, notably the 1979-89 Soviet invasion, have left the rugged Afghan countryside littered with landmines that continue to exact a merciless toll, mainly on children.

Now, in a small workshop in the industrial heart of the southern city of Eindhoven, 29-year-old Massoud Hassani screws in the last leg of an ingenious, wind-driven gadget he built to clear anti-personnel mines. He calls the device, the size of a golf buggy, a “mine kafon.”

“The idea comes from our childhood toys which we once played with as kids on the outskirts of Kabul,” Hassani told AFP as he rolled out the device for a demonstration.

Short for “kafondan,” which in Hassani’s native Dari language means “something that explodes,” the kafon consists of 150 bamboo legs screwed into a central metal ball.

At the other end of each leg, a round, white plastic disk the size of a small frisbee is attached via a black rubber car part for drive shafts, called a CV-joint boot.

Assembled, the spherical kafon looks like a giant tumbleweed or seed head. And like the dandelion puff it moves with the wind: The kafon is designed to be blown around, exploding anti-personnel mines as it rolls on the ground.

With the legs made from bamboo, they are easily replaceable. Once they are blown off it’s simply a matter of screwing on others, which means the kafon can be used over and over.

Inside the steel ball, a GPS device plots the kafon’s path as it rolls through an area that may be mined and shows on a computerized map exactly where it is safe to walk.

Hassini is still in the testing stages, notably to make sure there is 100 percent contact between the kafon’s “feet” and the ground, so no mine is missed.



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