Farewell founding fathers

The Engineering Faculty said goodbye to six staff members this year, some of whom were described as founding fathers of the faculty.

Hosting a lunch for the retirees, acting Dean of Engineering Prof Mellet Moll spoke warmly about his colleagues, praising not only their work ethic and research capacity but also their ability to bring humanity to their teaching process.

“In academia we see how people reach their prime at an advanced point in their career,” said Moll, pointing out that CPUT loses almost 150 years of experience in one go.

While retiring head of the Chemical Engineering Department Prof Daniel Ikhu-Omoregbe has only been at CPUT for ten years, Moll pointed out the department has under his leadership become the biggest contributor to research papers in the faculty despite having no research centres.

Ikhu-Omoregbe said he is glad to have achieved one of the goals he set himself over the past decade which was to leave a visible presence of Chemical Engineering at CPUT in the form of the new building on the Bellville campus.

Moll described Prof Rainer Haldenwang, retired head of the Flow Process and Rheology Centre, as a calming influence who over the years became one of the world’s leading authorities in the field of rheology.

Director of the Centre for Mechanics and Technology and a recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Scholarship, Prof Bohua Sun, said one of the best parts of having worked at CPUT since 1995 was the freedom to study what he wanted to explore. Sun most recently published a paper exploring the three-body problem from the perspective of dimensional analysis in academic journal Science China Physics, Mechanics & Astronomy.

Head of Programme: Surveying, Jacobus Raubenheimer, who collected a Long Service Award for 40 years at CPUT earlier this year, said being part of the development of education in the engineering field was just one of the many positive features of his career: “Your colleagues are a highlight because they make your life easier,” said Raubenheim.

Prof Alvin Lagardien, founder of the Centre for Water Supply and Sanitation Research, was unable to attend the farewell lunch but was fondly mentioned by all attendees. Head of the Civil Engineering & Surveying Department Aashadia Kamalie, mentioned how proud the entire faculty was of Lagardien’s work in the field of water sanitation: “He has been key in the relationship building between CPUT and other institutions,” said Kamalie.

Also honoured at the retirement lunch was Prof Anthony Staak. While Staak is Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning he noted that his heart will always be in engineering.

“When I think of the university’s vision to be at the heart of technology education and innovation in Africa, for me that’s engineering at CPUT. I was fortunate to also study at MIT and 50% of their students are engineers. I would like the day to come when 50% of the students here are engineers,” said Staak.


Written by Theresa Smith

Taking the long view

Over the past 40 years of working for CPUT Raubie Raubenheimer has taught 5300 students in five different buildings across three campuses.

“They’re all somewhere around here, it’s a small profession,” Raubenheimer reflects on his students as he points out half of the staff working at National Geo-spatial Information (NGI), South Africa’s national mapping organisation, greet him as their own lecturer when he enters the building in Mowbray.

When he started lecturing in September 1977 it was for the Cape College for Advanced Technical Education as it became renamed the Cape Technikon. While he has continued lecturing surveying as a subject ever since, one subject he taught back then which doesn’t exist now is how to interpret aerial photographs.

One of the biggest changes he has seen over the years has been the exponential growth of technology. It isn’t just how computers and the advent of GPS changed his field of study, but how it has changed the structure of the courses. He has seen how the field of teaching surveying merged so that all institutions offering the course eventually worked from the same curriculum and nowadays institutions are starting to diverge and specialise again.

“I enjoyed working with the students,” he smiles broadly as he answers the question of why he stayed at CPUT for four decades.

Though the kind of students who study Geographical Information Sciences have changed over the years (“nowadays kids don’t know how to draw maps”) he thinks lecturers have to change how they approach teaching.

“For me, enthusiasm for your subject is the most important thing,” he said.

Raubenheimer recently picked up a certificate for 40 years of service at the Long Service Awards and plans to retire at the end of the year.

He has always kept up his Geomatics Council membership and plans to become even more involved in the organisation’s Continuous Professional Development committee, which he helped to start in 2013.

The continued membership isn’t just to keep him out of his wife’s hair, Raubenheimer likes the fact that surveying not only gets you outside, but it has afforded him the opportunity to travel, present papers at conferences and render a service to the profession and community.

“I presented a paper in Helsinki, Finland in 1998 on our in-service training and how we monitor it. They had all the flags up outside of the conference centre, it was a relatively small conference but of the about 300 people attending I was the only one from Africa,” he remembered.

Written by Theresa Smith

Space science launches CPUT into Africa

Representatives of the Pan African University recently visited CPUT to check out the newest addition to the PAU.

A post-graduate training and research network of university nodes in five regions, supported by the African Union, the PAU was officially launched in 2011. It aims to provide opportunities for advanced graduate training and postgraduate research to high-performing African students.

Prof Tsige Gebre-Mariam, of the School of Pharmacy at the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, and PAU programme assistant Heromen Asefa Fetale visited CPUT on a fact-finding mission. They were investigating our research policies, graduate programmes and procedures around publications as we become the southern African university institute of the PAU.

The universities which house institutions centred on different science research focus areas are deliberately spread across north, west, east, central and southern Africa and each is selected on the basis of excellence displayed in a particular science programme. CPUT’s Space Programme was what won us the opportunity to be the coordinator of the PAU Space Sciences Programme.

The other institutes which make up the PAU are:

  • PAU Institute for Water and Energy Sciences (including Climate Change) situated at the Abou Bekr Bekaid University of Tlemcen, Algeria.
  • PAU Institute for Life and Earth Sciences (including Health and Agriculture) at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
  • PAU Institute for Governance, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Yaoundé, Cameroon.
  • PAU Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi, Kenya.

Gebre-Mariam is drawing on his experience working on research policies when he helped to found the Academy of Sciences (a Pan African organisation headquartered in Kenya which aims to drive sustainable development in Africa through science, technology and innovation).

“The idea is to have a centre of excellence in each geographic location, for the knowledge it diffuses inwards,” explained Gebre-Mariam.

The various institutes are aimed at post graduate students.

“At any given time 70% of the students studying in the programme should come from countries other than the host country. Staff as well,” said Gebre-Mariam.

Written by Theresa Smith

Meet and greet

Three female students in the Faculty of Engineering have been awarded full scholarships to the total value of nearly R200 000 by the ABB Educational Trust.

Sandisiwe Sobetwa, Sisanda Stofile and Rinee Kharivhe have been awarded scholarships for 2016, which will cover their tuition, accommodation, meals and books.

“The ABB Educational Trust invited applicants to apply for their scholarship programme which is now being rolled out to the rest of South Africa from Gauteng,” says the Engineering Faculty’s Luvuyo Kakaza.

“Their main interest was black, female students within the Engineering field, primarily Electrical and Mechanical Engineering.”

The trust’s chairman, Professor Yunus Ballim, recently met with the successful students on the Bellville Campus at an event hosted by the Engineering Faculty along with the Advancement Department.

Ballim motivated the students and explained the trust’s aim with funding students.

“As the ABB Trust is linked to an international Engineering Company (the ABB Group), therefore, this small initial step of funding may also impact the future of the scholarship recipients,” adds Kakaza.

“The ABB Group also offers the students an opportunity to do their Work-Integrated Learning with the company and, subsequently, possible employment in South Africa or even abroad.”

The ABB Educational Trust will enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with CPUT which will guide what is hoped to be a long relationship that may benefit many students in the Faculty of Engineering.

Vice-Chancellor, Dr Prins Nevhutalu, was instrumental in the awarding of the scholarships as he engaged with Ballim and facilitated the identification of suitable candidates.





Outstanding lecturers recognized for teaching excellence

Lecturers in the Faculty of Engineering who go the extra mile for their students were recognised during the faculty’s recent Teaching Excellence Awards.

The awards rewarded teaching and community engagement excellence during 2014.

Fareed Ismail in the Department of Mechanical Engineering walked away with the Outstanding Community Outreach Award for the Modular Solar Powered Aquaponics System. CPUT has been working with impoverished communities by introducing renewable energy projects that favours the upliftment of such communities. Together with students, technicians, lecturers, industry, non-government and communities Ismail strives to facilitate the introduction and growth of this project.

Dr Panagiotis Lazanas (Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering) received the coveted Faculty’s Teaching Excellence Award. Lazanas’ efforts have been extremely successful as he has managed to assist his students to achieve throughout rates between 95% and 100%. He makes use of many innovative teaching techniques and has presented papers and workshops on his techniques in conferences in South Africa, United States of America, Europe and the Far East over the last 15 years.

Prof Marshall Sheldon, the faculty’s Acting Dean, also awarded Departmental Teaching Excellence Awards to Captain Lauren Lawson (Maritime Studies), Laura Pinfold (Construction Management & Quantity Surveying) and Nina Drotskie (Clothing and Textile Technology).

How nano-satellites are driving Africa’s space programme

A tiny cube, slightly smaller than a loaf of bread, is the new manna to heaven, as the number of nano-satellites being hurled into orbit is increasing substantially.

Nano-satellites are small satellites weighing between 1 kg and 10 kgCubeSats are box-shaped versions of nano-satellites. They are very light compared to the traditional satellites which can weigh anything up to a few tons.

Pretty much in the vein of mobile phone hand-sets, satellites have also become smaller and better. They cost less but have the capability of bigger satellites of the past.

In their short existence nano-satellites have seen a remarkable uptake globally among universities and recent business start-ups. The exciting era of nano-satellites has begun.

Cost effective and nimble

Since 2000, more than 300 CubeSats have been launched, of which American start-up Planet Labs accounts for a third. It is expected that up to 3000 nano- and micro-satellites will be launched over the next 5 years.

While the cost of a big satellite can run into hundreds of millions of dollars, a CubeSat can be built for around a hundred thousand dollars, and launched for much the same, depending on the complexity of the mission.

For this reason, CubeSats were initially used to train students for the aerospace industry. But now these small spacecraft can even be used to track and trace vessels at sea, or aircraft.

Being low cost, multiple nano-satellites can be launched into low Earth orbit. The satellites in these constellations pass over a specific geographic area more frequently than single, big-satellite missions.

This makes it possible for nano-satellites to be used for rapid responses to disasters, or to gather timely information relating to tele-medicine, environmental management and asset tracking. They will soon even reach to other planets.

With so many satellites big and small in orbit there is the possibility (still extremely small) of collision with pieces of used rockets and defunct satellites floating about. But even tiny pieces of space debris are tracked with radar and potential collisions can be predicted and avoided with appropriate technologies.

This has inspired cutting edge research and innovation, for example, to make sure nano-satellites de-orbit (return to the atmosphere and burn out) when they reach the end of their lives.

Combined with evolving national and international regulatory frameworks, future generations will continue to benefit from this resource.

Africa’s first cool cube

On 21 November 2013, South Africa made history by becoming the first African country to launch its own CubeSat TshepisoSAT into space.

TshepisoSAT being loaded into its ‘pod’ before launch.

The satellite was developed by students and staff from the French South African Institute of Technology at CPUT with funding from the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation.

TshepisoSAT was the first in a series of CubeSats that will study the ionosphere above Africa in collaboration with scientists of the South African National Space Agency, and others on the continent.

The university has also pioneered the International African CubeSat Workshop series, a growing networking forum for colleagues on the continent. The partnership between academia, government and industry together with adopting CubeSats for a hands-on learning experience provide a blueprint for creating similar nodes elsewhere in Africa.

Challenges facing Africa’s space vision

Nano-satellites support the African Union’s science and technology ambitions which it believes could reap massive benefits for the continent.

The African Union Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa – 2024(STISA-2024) has six priorities, at the heart of which is the pursuit of space-based applications supported by an indigenous satellite industry. The priorities include putting an end to hunger, bringing about food security and preventing and controlling diseases.

But establishing a sustainable African space industry faces a number of challenges, notably that of funding. Furthermore, young people are generally not rushing to take up careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Capacity building for the space industry is constrained by the high cost of traditional satellites and supporting infrastructure compared to other technologies.

CubeSats are, however, winning over the youth to the space sector. From being cheaper to build and launched to space, they provide a cost-effective platform for training and research, especially for countries where heavy investment in a space industry has to be weighed against more immediate needs such as health and welfare.

Combining the vibrant ingenuity and creativity of this generation with an equally ingenious and cool space technology can no doubt have a profoundly positive socio-economic impact on Africa.

Democratising space

Africa is steadily moving towards a coherent space programme and nano-satellites should be part of this broader strategy. Pan-African constellations of nano-satellites can be developed in partnerships with existing communities of excellence in science, engineering and mathematics on the continent.

By ensuring that Africa produces its own engineers and scientists, and by playing our part on the global stage, the continent will have taken another step towards the democratisation of space for its people.

By Prof Robert van Zyl, Director of F’SATI

*Article first appeared in The Conversation Africa

Electrical innovation showcased at 2015 Hanover Fair

CPUT was proudly represented at the recent 2015 Hanover Fair.

On display was an automated solar oven power generator, an innovative device that was designed and manufactured by a group of Electrical Engineering students and lecturers.

The opportunity to showcase their innovative device was part of the team’s winnings after they scooped first prize in the EnvironmentRenewable Energy category of the International Xplore New Automation Competition earlier this year.

The team, which was supervised by lecturers Dr Wilfred Fritz and Deon Kallis, revamped an existing solar cooking device and turned it into an automated solar oven power generator, which operates off-grid and can be used to boil water, cook food and power a battery.

The Hanover Fair is the biggest Industrial trade fair in the world and Fritz says the CPUT stand received a lot of interest from visitors.

INNOVATORS: A group of Electrical Engineering students and their lecturers took first place in the EnvironmentRenewable Energy category of the International Xplore New Automation Competition

INNOVATORS: A group of Electrical Engineering students and their lecturers took first place in the EnvironmentRenewable Energy category of the International Xplore New Automation Competition

The CPUT stand also made headlines in the German newspaper Lippische Landes-Zeitung.

Lecturer Dr Wilfred Fritz says they will now look at further developing the device and explore how to make it more cost effective.

Operating off-grid, the device’s implications will be far reaching, given the current energy crisis facing South Africa.

*The student team is made up of Masters student Ben Dixon, BTech students Maahir Rahmna and Greyson Du Toit as well as second-year’s Werner Lotter and Brendon van Breda.

Engineers must create new knowledge

Your research must set you apart from others, says Kolosa Madikizela.

A CPUT alumnus, Madikizela was the keynote speaker at this year’s Faculty of Engineering Postgraduate Welcome event, which took place at the Bellville Campus.

Madikizela, who is the Cape Regional Manager of Pragma, urged students to embark on research that will make a difference and add value, whether in communities or in industry.

“As engineers we have to solve problems. We all have the ability to do this,” she says.

Madikizela also urged students to remain motivated and to work hard.

“I am where I am because of CPUT and the will I had to succeed,” she says.

Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Dr Nawaz Mahomed, urged the postgraduate class to embark on research that will add to the body of useful knowledge.

“You are not consuming knowledge, but you will create new knowledge,” he says.

Mohamed says the faculty’s postgraduate programme provides students with the platform to innovate.