I had the pleasure of interviewing up and coming engineering star, Masedi Mmonatau. Mmonatau is a former member of EWB-Wits and co-founder of EWB-Bots, she is currently completing the MSc (Master of Science) in chemical engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand. Mmonatau is bright, determined and passionate about all that she does and this is clearly reflected in her response to the interview questions.1) Describe your engineering journey?
Well I don't really have that much of an engineering journey as I have not had full work experience. I did my undergraduate degree in chemical engineer at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and now I am completing my Masters (MSc) in chemical engineering at the same university. My main research focus is in producing activated carbon fibers for recovering platinum group metals from dilute solutions.
2) What prompted you to start EWB-Bots?
The idea of EWB has always been something that I was attracted to ever since I heard about it at Wits. It is interesting and exciting to know that we can aid in community development as engineers. EWB is a platform which bridges community development, engineering practices (practical work) with student engagement. I liked the idea that it allows the youth to be involved in uplifting, caring and rebuilding their environment. EWB promotes value adding hands on solutions that involve both aspiring and working engineers in bettering the environment and community we live in, and eventually the world at large. I saw it as an opportunity which I wished could grow back at home. Like they say, charity begins at home.
3) What sparked your interest in community development?
I have always had a passion for community development, it just didn't make sense not to help if you could help. One of my favourite quotes is "a candle loses no light by lighting another" (by James Keller)
4) How have you been able to use your skills as an engineer to assist/empower communities?
I feel like there is still lots to do as an engineer, and at the current moment I do not see that major defining task/s that I can say "my skill in this and that has helped to assist and empower a community". I believe that at the current moment I am learning more about the communities I would like to work in and also learning to work with engineers from different skills set to see how we can best assist the community and find sustainable solutions to their problems.What I have learnt thus far through assisting communities is that, the people of a community are not that interested in our technical know how, but it is important that your skills as an engineer relate directly to the needs of the community. Through being involved in EWB projects, I believe my communication and teamwork skills have played a very crucial part in helping communities.
5) Are there any interesting community based projects that you are working on currently or in the near future?
At the current moment no, I am more focused on building/growing a strong EWB-Bots chapter and a student chapter EWB-BIUST (Botswana International University of Science and Technology).
6) What advise would you give aspiring engineers?
To be patient with themselves and with others. "Rome wasn't built in a day." "Think big, start small and build deep." Continuously think about what you are passionate about, what you want to achieve and what you will need to achieve it.
Masedi Mmonatau interviewed by Dhruti Dheda