Flowers put focus on plastic pollution

The flowers of the Cape served as the inspiration for an installation that provided food for thought on the issue of sustainable development.

Academics and students from the Design Department joined academics from the University of Lapland for a three-day workshop which culminated in the installation being placed on a lamppost in District Six.

Titled Flowers of the Cape, the project saw the participants creating flowers from plastic bottles and bags and other plastic waste.

Prof Satu Miettinen, Dean of the University of Lapland’s Faculty of Art and Design, said the participants had visited Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden to draw inspiration.

“This particular project is about sustainable development and figuring out your individual relationship to recycling and sustainability issues.”

She said it was hoped that the installation would draw some reflections from people.

“I will also document the installation and the work process and the photographs will be exhibited in Finland in the Victor Barsokevitsch Photographic Gallery.”

BTech Surface Design student Nicolene Mulder said when she heard what the project was about she immediately wanted to be part of it.

“I have already been working with plastic. It is important to promote plastic upcycling. I also want to use what people throw away to make the point that they should stop using it.”

The project forms part of the Participatory Development with the Youth (PARTY) Project, an international project which aims to support marginalised youth in developing countries.

Vikki Eriksson, a Lecturer in CPUT’s Department of Research, Innovation and Partnerships, said the benefits of the project included building bridges with institutions elsewhere in the world and fostering relationships on a one on one academic level but also at departmental and institutional level.

BLOOMING BEAUTIFUL: The flower installation was placed on a lamppost.

NRF renews funding for teacher education Chair

Prof Yusuf Sayed, Research Leadership Chair in Teacher Education, says the renewed funding for the Chair from the National Research Foundation (NRF) is a testament to the hard work and effort of all members of the CPUT-based Centre for International Teacher Education (CITE).

“It is an affirmation of the support we have received from the university and faculty,” said Sayed. “It reflects a deepening of research at CPUT and the commitment and values of CPUT as becoming a research-intensive university.”

For the next phase the Chair and CITE will continue to deepen the work they have engaged with in the first phase which included developing new knowledge about teacher education, building research capacity and strengthening national, regional and international research partnerships.

“We will also seek to continue to actively enhance the impact of our research in the coming phase,” he added.

“I am pleased to communicate that the panel has recommended that funding for the Chair continue for the next five-year cycle and that this recommendation has been accepted by the NRF,” Dr Rocky Skeef, Executive Director: Reviews and Evaluations, wrote to CPUT recently.

Skeef also indicated in the letter that the panel’s recommendation outcome was reached by consensus.

CITE was founded in 2014 with the understanding that teacher preparation and teacher classroom performance are at the heart of enhancing education quality and ensuring that education acts as a vehicle for achieving equity and transformation in society.

CITE acts as a national, regional and international centre of excellence for research and policy dialogue about education policy and teacher education.

The specific objectives of the Chair are to:

  • Develop a rigorous and robust programme of research and scholarship to advance knowledge in the field of teacher education;
  • Support and build research capacity;
  • Bridge the current education policy-practice gap in South Africa and contribute to evidence based policy making;
  • Build on existing initiatives in the field of teacher education in South Africa and globally and;
  • Initiate and build a platform of research, research capacity, policy discussion, academic debate, and collegial collaboration pertaining to education policy and education in South Africa.

Plugging into renewable energy

The Centre for Distributed Power and Electronic Systems is starting to flex its muscles as the biggest Research Centre in the Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering Department.

Earlier this year CDPES launched its own real-time simulation and hardware-in-the-loop laboratory, the Opal-RT Real Time Simulation Laboratory. They recently invited representatives from marine diamond mining company DebMarine Namibia to check out the system.

The company is in the process of designing a new mining vessel but does not have the in-house ability to test the capacity of proposed electrical systems before they are installed on the ship. Potentially this research could be handled by CDPES or DebMarine Namibia employees could be trained to use the OPAL-RT simulator in the CPUT laboratory in order to do the testing themselves.

While giving the DebMarine Namibia representatives a brief overview of CDPES and the Energy Institute deputy head of operations at CDPES, Dr Marco Adonis, pointed out that the laboratory in which he was standing was operating completely off the grid. The Solar MD Renewable Energy Laboratory is powered and run by a Photovoltaic back-up laboratory system and is already used as a teaching lab.

CDPES is also currently setting up a Phoenix Contact Instrumentation Laboratory and about to install a Chroma Solar PV Simulator and Inverter Testing Laboratory plus a Chroma Battery Simulator and Testing Laboratory.

“We are trying to set ourselves up as unique and to specialise with regards to our research ambit,” Adonis explained the new laboratory spaces.

CDPES is currently overseeing 36 BTech students, all on track to graduate at the end of 2018. At the recent 2018 CDPES BTech Conference the students presented papers on a host of subjects ranging from the voltage regulation of wind turbines connected to the grid to thoughts on a renewable energy-based water purification system for a rural village in South Africa.

Engineer Hermann Oelsner was invited to open the Conference and he delivered a talk on renewable energy and his ideas for setting up a desalination plant on the West Coast. Oelsner spoke about the changes in renewable energy technology over the past ten years and challenged the BTech students to think about what research was needed in a quickly changing industry.

After all the papers were delivered Dorian Anyala won best presentation for his paper “Feasibility study into the possibility of setting up a concentrated solar power plant into the Namibian national grid” while Asive Poswayo was the runner-up for his paper “Resynchronisation of grid-connected PV system after downstream faults clearance.”


Written by Theresa Smith

The psychology of education

This year the Chemical Engineering Department has been trying a coaching programme as both an intervention and attempt to understand the experience of their first year students.

Dr Disa Mogashana, coach, mentor and advisor at True Success Institute, recently presented feedback on the 2018 Student Coaching Pilot Programme which targeted 62% of the first year Extended Curriculum Programme (ECP)  students in Chemical Engineering.

Students attended five workshops on weekends between March and July, with the first eliciting information to fill in a comprehensive student profile.

The programme targeted students at biggest risk of failing by looking for particular markers: did the students fail their first chemistry test; was Chemical Engineering not their first choice; were they a walk-in; did they need funding; were they not living at home but not in residence on campus either.

Yes to those questions put the students into a group who had to attend all workshops while the rest could choose which sessions to attend.

The programme is based on a life coaching model.

The first workshop showed that some of the challenges faced by the ECP students included: being attacked on or off campus; travelling far distances to get to campus; feeling inadequate; loneliness and not having friends; insecurity about their future; family relationship issues; low self-esteem or lack of confidence; and mental issues such as anxiety or depression.

“The  programme tries to address all of these. It was important that the experience be proactive. How do you empower them to deal with a problem. The structures and way the university functions need to shift the way we teach, but the students also need to realise that they have the power to change,” asked Mogashana.

In addition to the workshops she also set up ongoing support for the students via Whatsapp to allow them to contact her directly for mentorship as needed.

The workshops covered topics such as budgeting, how to set goals and self-awareness and how the mind and emotions work.

She said student feedback showed they had developed a better awareness of the choices they can make and how much control they have over their actions.

Head of the Chemical Engineering Department Prof Daniel Ikhu-Omoregbe said the information could be useful for deciding if and when interventions needed to be made with particular students.

“I hope this will help us understand why students perform or do not. We need to see whether there have been changes in their test performance and next look at how they have adjusted in class. I hope to repeat this programme next year and my desire is to involve the mainstream students as well because they have some of the same issues too,” said Ikhu-Omoregbe.

Written by Theresa Smith

Banking on language to learn more

Dr Ignatius Ticha, language coordinator for the Applied Science Faculty, is experimenting with a different approach to multi-lingual teaching.

During Science Communication 1 classes he tasks a particular student to act as a language banker. Students are encouraged to use their home language if they do not know a particular English term and the word banker notes it and then finds the appropriate translation and explanation.

Ticha says this is a different process to the formation of the online multilingual glossaries which takes place in a formal forum incorporating input from students, lecturers and language experts.

This ongoing process of working with multi-lingual terms and explanations in the classroom was recently ameliorated with a poster exhibition assignment.

For the Science Communication 1 module taught by Dr Ticha and embedded in Prof Muhammad Nakhooda’s Immunology course the students created posters about indigenous remedies and then presented them to classmates, explaining how the remedies worked before presenting an exhibition of their posters to the Faculty in the week of Heritage Day.

The exhibition theme was Our Heritage, Our Health, Our Medicines and there were two components.

“The first was the presentation of their posters in class and students from the Film & Media Studies came and recorded their presentations,” said Ticha.

The students presented in groups of five, producing all manner of samples, some of which their classmates did not recognise at all.

The second component was the exhibition where the video of the classroom presentations was screened.

A key component of creating and presenting the posters was allowing the students to use multiple languages.

“We had students presenting part of their work in Kiswahili, which was quite interesting. We also had students presenting in Lingala which is the Congolese language, in French, and a lot of the students presented their work in isiXhosa and Tsonga, but also in English because the intention is to create a multi-lingual space.”

During the presentations in class the language banker had to write fast to note down indigenous names of herbs and the students engaged in vigorous debate.

“There was so much passion around some of the things that were presented. One of the things that came out for us was the debate around the divide between superstition and science.”

“What we are trying to do with this project is our own contribution towards the decolonisation of education because these home remedies are forms of indigenous knowledge that students bring with them,” said Ticha.

Written by Theresa Smith

Research with an eye on awareness

With the summer season upon us Capetonians will be reaching for their sunglasses to protect them from the sun’s harsh rays. But will any old pair of sunglasses do the trick?

Students Aqeelah Harris and Ayakha Rammbuda recently set out to investigate Patient knowledge About Sunglasses and their UV protective qualities.

They were among the groups of final-year students in the Ophthalmic Sciences Department who recently presented their research findings to their classmates, second-year students and a panel consisting of the Department Head Angelique Hendricks, Prof Peter Clarke-Farr, Michael Jowell and Prasidh Ramson.

Among other things the students found that 38 percent of the participants didn’t know what UV radiation was.

When asked to rate the importance of wearing sunglasses only 26 percent of the participants rated it as very important, 58 percent rated it as reasonably important and 16 percent rated it as slightly important.

Although the sample size was small (50 participants) the students concluded that there was a need for awareness campaigns around the adverse effects of UV radiation, protection practices and knowledge of protective devices.

Some of the other research topics included the Nature of spectacle breakages, mishaps and repairs and The progression of Myopia in young adults.

Hendricks said the panel was very proud of the students and thanked the dedicated lecturers for their hard work.

“I hope you will work with us in future and publish your research,” she told the students.

Clarke-Farr said the research and presentations were getting better every year.

YOUNG RESEARCHERS: The third-year students with the panelists.