Sunshine on the open road

CPUT students and staff members will take part in this year’s Sasol Solar Car Challenge 2018, South Africa for the first time.

Held every second year, the competition sees teams from across the world design and build solar-powered vehicles to drive across South Africa in an eight day event.

Prof Graeme Oliver of the Mechanical Engineering Department has put together a team of 20 staff members and students to compete against the more than 20 local and international teams expected to participate.

Oliver initially signed CPUT up for the competition back in May, but only received confirmation of Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) funding at the end of June, leaving two months to put together the car.

The compressed time schedule meant using a design and manufacturing process that would be achievable in a limited amount of time which Oliver calls a great learning experience for everyone.

“Because this is our first time entering the Challenge there is a lot of extra learning to be done.

“As we are very new to this competition we are also happy to receive advice such as the input from our LiFePO4 battery pack fabricator, who is also sponsoring some small electrical components, on battery management and switching systems to protect our battery performance,” said Oliver.

Since the project is not integrated into a particular course or subject, students from Mechatronics, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering have volunteered to work on the team with the help of the TIA Adaptronics AMTL research unit based at CPUT.

The solar electronic car will be called CPUT Solar Flyer “because it looks a bit like a plane.”

The vehicle design will incorporate in-wheel hub motors and a covered space frame reinforced with composites for safety, with an-offset adjustable roof mounted solar array.

The solar array is assembled from commercially available panels and the hub motors are imported kits supplied by a local Cape Town supplier, with some additional design fabrication needed to mount them in motorcycle wheel rims with the in-wheel hydraulic disk brakes.

The 20 strong team is hard at work in the Adaptronics AMTL building, when teaching and learning schedules allow, but not all will travel to Pretoria for the actual road trip.

The team who do eventually make the journey will drive the car from Pretoria to Stellenbosch between 22 and 29 September, covering a set distance every day.

Written by Theresa Smith

Working with a smile

Back when Florina Wagenaar started working at then Pentech in 1976, it was in the kitchen of a hostel that accommodated 200 students.

“I had to stand on a bench just to reach the pots,” she laughs.

She quickly moved to working on the floor, which meant cleaning the communal spaces of the hostel, making sure students were fed and in their own rooms at night.

“We would have to wait for the students to come back from away games or whatever they were doing. We loved working with the students, looking after them. We were close to them.

“We used to be very strict, the house matron did not laugh. It was good times,” said Wagenaar.

WORKPLACE: Florina Wagenaar in front of the Mechanical Engineering Building.

As her own family grew during the 80s (she has four children) Wagenaar continued working in the hostel until the early 90s when she moved first to the old Education Building and then the Mechanical Engineering Building where she still works today.

She is the woman with all the keys and as she bustles around everyone greets her with a happy “hello aunty Florine” before they lay their building problems at her feet. They tell her about a broken machine or depleted stores and she knows exactly who to notify to sort it out.

She recently attended the CPUT Long Service Awards at Granger Bay Campus, beaming as she walked up to collect a certificate for 35 years of unbroken service.

Now 62 years old, Wagenaar started working on Pentech Campus because that was the job the then Department of Coloured Affairs assigned to her. While there were many better paying jobs available in local factories she preferred the educational institution.

“I did like the work, especially the holidays. That was the best part,” said Wagenaar who would visit her mother back home in Oudtshoorn every chance she would get.

She likes the fact that service workers on campus are once again directly employed by CPUT as she has once again noticed a warm sense of camaraderie amongst the workers which she remembers from when she first started.

Written by Theresa Smith



Summer school zooms in on renewable energy

Hard work has paid off for the top five performing BTech Mechanical Engineering students, who recently got an opportunity to attend a summer school at the Ernst Abbe University of Applied Sciences in Germany.

Sponsored by DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service, the summer school focused on renewable energy and saw students from Germany, Jordan and Namibia participate in the two-week long event.

Trishana Rama, Mulalo Raphalalani, Sthembiso Ngema, Busiswa Jantjies and James Genis, who were accompanied by lecturer, Simphiwe Nqabisa, says it was a life-time opportunity.

Nqabisa, who was also selected to present a lecture at the summer school, says the main aim of the summer school was to discuss the effects of greenhouse gases, air pollution and climate effects of fossil fuel combustion.

“Furthermore we had to look into our countries’ commitment and time frames to reduce the production of greenhouse gases by shifting to other means of energy generation such as Wind, PV and CPV.”

He says it was a good learning experience for the students, who were exposed to Germany’s successful renewable energy sector.

Trishana says the summer school was an eye-opener and helped her to better understand how renewable energy can address South Africa’s energy crisis.

“The summer school gave us a broader look into renewable energy and how engineering can be used to advance South Africa,” says Trishana.

Mulalo says the highlights of the trip for the group were the various visits to biomass plants, while Sthembiso says the trip reaffirmed his career choice.

“I believe this is the field that I want to focus on in order to make a change in South Africa,” says Sthembiso






Sustainable farming unit showcased


Word of an  invention that will allow communities to do small scale farming, especially in areas where there is little or no infrastructure and low levels of expertise, is spreading fast.

The Small Scale Modular Solar Powered Aquaponics System was invented by lecturer Fareed Ismail and was recently showcased at the Spice Mecca Radio 786 Ramadaan Expo.

Unveiled last year, the invention is proving popular with a number of organization and individuals requesting to partner with Ismail or purchase the project.

The system consists of an aquaculture unit to breed and grow fish as well as a hydroponics water filtration unit that facilitates the growth of vegetables and fruits. The invention also relies on renewable energy such as solar thermal, wind and photovoltaic energy as a power source together with a programmable control system.

“This invention will allow such sub social as well as affluent environmentally friendly communities to promote entrepreneurship, create awareness of green energy, and supply sustainable livelihoods throughout,” says Ismail.

Currently Ismail is working on improving the pilot module and has designed and manufactured various sizes of the unit, including a unit for household use.

The project has also grown, with several Engineering students assisting Ismail with the further development of the invention.

Mechanical Engineering student Busi Jantjies, who is coordinating the student team, says they are all benefiting from working on the invention.

Busi is responsible for daily data logging and for further developing the device that draws water out of the grow beds and feeds it into the fish tank, while several others are responsible for the frame, welding, electrical and solar panels.

The next step for the team is commercialization.

For more information on the project, contact: Fareed Ismail at