Students design solar car … and brewery

2013-10-18 00:00

AFTER months of hard work, the final year mechanical engineering students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal are ready to put their high-end designs on display.

The students were assigned to work on various projects by their lecturers in a challenge that required them to apply their minds and work with their hands.

The projects are part of their final year assessment. The task tapped into their resilience and the understanding of mechanics.

Christopher Lawrence (23) from Westville and his team, Fathima Moosa, Tregan Moodley and Sandile Nkosi, built a solar-powered car. Lawrence said he did not take the challenge lightly. He and his team were tasked with designing a solar car and for him it hit close to home, as he used to help his father, a mechanic, to fix cars in the yard.

“I have always enjoyed working on cars and making them better,” he said.

This is the very passion that got him into mechanical engineering.

“I love assembling projects that have never been seen before. As a result, I’ve won a campus competition with my friend where we had designed a car that used steam to move,” he said.

“Hybrid cars are the future. Oil will eventually run out, and that poses a challenge to us to be innovative and take advantage of the technology we have,” he said.

He said their two-year solar car project had to adhere to the stringent rules of the South African Solar Car Race competition. The project is now designed and ready for manufacturing.

Another student, Andrew Illidge (22) from Durban North, said his team, Ryan Dreyer and Angula Johannes, worked many hours and the workload was intense.

“Seeing what you designed actually working the way that you wanted it to was great,” he said.

Illidge said he was thrown into the deep end when he and his colleagues were assigned to construct an automatic beer brewing machine.

“I don’t even drink that much … Although I knew a huge challenge lay ahead, I was excited to work on this project,” he said.

The machine took nine months to complete, and produces 40 litres of beer, he said.

However, the exciting challenge did not go without minor hurdles on the way.

“We were working on a budget and we had to be smart about choosing which electric components to buy,” he said.

He added that they looked forward to seeing people’s reaction to the project.

Twenty teams will display their designs at the school of engineering at UKZN on October 29.

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