12th March, 2016 – the Central Catering Unit (CCU) and the Chancellor’s Court in University Sports Ground was packed to capacity as early as 11.00am. The various groups of students, lecturers, organizers and guests were all in different moods. The students appeared to be muddled at the various School of Engineering stands, most of them had never seen such kind of exhibition projects that were being displayed at the stands, and they had no idea that the School of Engineering of the best University in South of Sahara and North of River Limpopo was well equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. The lecturers as well as the organizers wore a fidgety face, at least before the 11.00am when there was very little activity. The participants of the various engineering exhibitions and competition were anxious, trying to breathe an air of confidence. In the field, the air was invigorated by our very own Dj Sharly, the finalists of the ESA tournament were full of beans as they could be seen hitting the ground so hard. At around 11.30am, the judges arrived and immediately began their daunting business of separating the men from the boys with respect to their projects, asking the participants at the stands thought-provoking questions about their projects. Last but not least, the guests constituting of students from Mary Leakey Girls who were the first ones to arrive, were awe-inspired and appeared to be ‘speechless’ at the kind of innovation and technology in the various stands.
The Open Day was structured in such a way that each of the five departments in the School of Engineering and under the umbrella of the Engineering Students Association (ESA) took part in it. The five departments include: the Electrical and Information Engineering Department, the Civil and Construction Engineering Department, the Mechanical and Manufacturing Department, the Environmental and Bio-Systems Department and the Geospatial and Space technology department. All these department had their own branded stands with some of their pioneering and inventive projects. Some of the projects in Electrical and Information Engineering Department stand included an Electro-pneumatic Automation System that utilizes PLCs, pneumatics and conveyor belt system used to sort out metallic and non-metallic objects. The second project in the stand was an Arduino-based ‘Biometric Register’ which uses the fingerprint to register and take out a roll call. In the Bio-Systems and Environmental Engineering stand, one of the interesting projects was on Chicken Management where a student has developed an Arduino-based Electronic System that would notify the farmer via a text message when the chicken needed to be attended to. The judges were impressed by the project but were concerned that the device could not tell exactly what the chicken needed, that is, feeds or medication or water? In the Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering stand, we had a typical model of an engine. The model showed in details how the engine works. In the Civil and Structural Engineering stand, we had various structural model including the ‘suspended bridge’, which was designed in the department using the locally available materials such as steel. The ‘suspended bridge’ project is expected be economical but without compromising its safety. In the Geospatial and Space technology stand, we had GIS and mapping projects explaining the new technologies in marking, land survey and space exploration.
The School of Engineering Open Day had two competitions running concurrently, that is, the Projects Competition and the ESA finals tournament. The ESA tournament between the 5th Year Mechanical and 4th Year Electrical was a bumpy one, nonetheless the 4th Year Electrical students became the first past the post and took the cup. In the CCU, the mood was tense and the presentation hall was mute. The Projects Competition began on a very innovative note with very technical and innovative projects from all the departments. The projects included the ‘Facial Recognition Register’, the ‘Decorticator’ project, the ‘Desalination’ project, the VoSpine Project and the Crime Mapping Project. The four judges were keen to look at the innovativeness of the project, the commercialization of the project, the completeness of the projects, the presentation of the projects and the alignment of the project towards achieving Vision 2030. The judges were satisfied that the ‘Decorticator’ Project was the best. The project was about sisal threading presented by the Mechanical Department that pursued to produce the optimal quality of sisal threads by modulating the speed of the threader and its distance from the sisal.
This being the first ever School of Engineering Open Day, it can be said without fear of contradiction that the open day was a great success beyond the expectations of many. However, it would not have been a success without the endless and personal effort of Prof. Mbuthia – the Dean of the School of Engineering, all the Chairpersons of all the Departments, the Engineering Students Association headed by Kevin Odongo as well as all other organizers of the event.