Durban — The creative genius of some of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s engineering students will go on display at their “Design Project Open Day” on Friday.
Final-year students in the electrical, electronic and computer engineering (EECE) discipline will be on hand to discuss and demonstrate the functioning and calibration of their various constructs to be exhibited at the EECE’s north and south buildings.
Projects will embody the latest and innovative techniques in areas like AI, blockchain technology, robotics, control and automation, and electrical protection and lighting.
During the show-and-tell session at UKZN’s Howard College campus, the budding engineers’ creations will be assessed by examiners, and this is regarded as a last and critical step in completing degrees.
Viroshnee Gounden, an electrical engineering student who has created an “Electromagnetic Launcher” (gun), regarded the design project as the “big bang” at the end.
“This module counts for 32 credits. It’s huge. If you don’t pass, no degree,” Gounden said.
To achieve bullseye on her project topic, Launching a Projectile, Gounden went the coilgun route in creating her Electromagnetic Launcher.
The weapon fires projectiles through electromagnetic propulsion (electric current and magnetic fields) instead of gunpowder, which eliminates traditional firearm drawbacks like noise, recoil, toxic components and residue build-up.
“It’s technology that I haven’t seen or heard of previously in South Africa. She thought her EML would be useful for the military or in defence.
“It has the ability to be lethal (wars) or non-lethal, like in a protest situation. It is possible to decrease the velocity and use different types of bullets that cause no harm. You just have to tweak the parameters.”
Gounden grew up on a farm in Darnall (North Coast of KZN) and often went hunting with her parents, which stirred her affinity for weaponry. She said her research and theoretical work had to cover much ground before building her EML.
While Tholokuhle Mbuthu has no dogs of own, his invention is likely to prevent unnecessary heartache for dog-owners when their pets stray away.
Mbuthu, on the cusp of graduating with a BSc in computer engineering, has developed his “Purebred Dog Management System” that can track owners of dogs when they get lost.
His mobile application enables owners to register their animals by capturing dog-facial images. Each dog has its own unique nose/muzzle prints, much like human fingerprints.
The data is saved in an AI database to ensure accuracy and is vetted by an association like the SPCA and this leads to the creation of a unique NFT (non-fungible token) that cannot be replaced.
“This app will be an immense help to dog-owners when their dogs go missing.”
Mbuthu, from the Babanago area, said his family was excited with his academic achievements and plans to pursue his Master’s qualification next.
Nkosiyazi Shelembe, a UKZN electronic engineering student, went with the theme “Smart Helmet for Mine Ventilation Monitoring and Control”.
The helmet Shelembe created will keep those on the ground abreast with underground happenings, and ultimately improve the safety of miners.
“It’s designed to monitor temperature, humidity, pressure and some volatile organic compounds like gases in mines. It’s like a precautionary and additional safety feature for miners.”
Shelembe’s design is aimed at providing granular data from a worker’s perspective and not stationary sensors only.
An additional benefit was information gathered from the stationary sensors and the helmet could be used to improve mine ventilation systems.
When Shelembe eventually got the topic he wanted, he knew he would be able to make a difference in the lives of miners.
From a young age he was always fascinated by electronic breadboards, wires and components.
In building his helmet, he started designing a breadboard from scratch and added other components, some of which were imported.
His helmet includes the design of a mobile, low-power, personnel-mounted monitor that leverages advanced sensor technologies.
It uses a localisation and a data transfer system that relies on a combination of Bluetooth low energy and wi-fi to provide real-time data on critical environmental parameters.
Shelembe said he was a bit nervous ahead of Friday, but in “my heart of hearts I'm confident”.
“I’m sure I’ll shed a few tears at my graduation. It was a hard journey.”
Independent on Saturday