Awards aplenty for switched-on students

2014-11-20 00:00

AN off-switch for power stations switched on the judges and won a top award in engineering design degree project.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal Electric, Electronic and Computer Engineering Open Day saw nearly 125 final-year design projects — from voice- controlled robots to flying drones — on display yesterday at the Howard College Campus.

The open day marks the end of the four-year degree programmes and awards are given to the best projects.

Nondumiso Ngema (22) won Best Final Year Engineering Design Project for her generator protection unit. “It is designed to keep electricity generators operating all the time,” said Ngema. “If there is an abnormality it will sound the alarm. It can predict a problem before it happens.”

Her design can be used to ensure the safety of power generators from Eskom’s huge turbines to wind and petrol generators as well as ensuring the safety of those work with such machinery.

The project “took a lot of courage”, said Tahmid Quazi, one of her lecturers. “Nondumiso was working with things that were going to blow up.”

Ngema matriculated from Phendukani High School in Newcastle and wasn’t sure what she wanted to do when at university. “But once I was here I realised electrical engineering was for me and there was no going back.”

Next year she is hoping to do a masters “looking at greater protection for generators”.

The Best Final Year Engineering Design Project went to Jediael Krishnasamy for his digitally-controlled inverted pendulum, where its centre of mass is situated above its pivot point. Unless it is balanced like this, it would tip over.

“It is used in rockets and missiles,” said Krishnasamy. “They need to stay upright when they launch as all the weight is at the bottom. It is also used in personal transport devices such as Segways.”

Nirvaan Singh (23) won the most innovative electrical design for his next generation hexapod. “Using legs rather than wheels gives it more mobility on uneven terrain,” said Singh. “The legs and chassis were 3D printed.”

• Stephen.Coan@witness.co.za

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