ENGINEERS WITHOUT BORDERS SOUTH AFRICA
EWB-UKZN Social Impact Project: A need for industry 4.0 in cross-border communication and rural technical education
Tofo, a stunning coastal town, well renowned for tourist activities like fishing and entertainment, and probably is one of the most beautiful villages to visit in Mozmabique. Tofo has a good telecommunication infrastructure for communicating and sharing holiday experiences. The Tofo area has access to electricity, and clean water. The main sources of income for the community are fishing, woodwork, agriculture and tourism. Underneath the façade of tranquility, leisure and relaxation a real problem lingers concerning poverty, alcoholism, skills-development, entrepreneurship, disease and natural disasters, and the evidence of these social and environmental issues can be seen when walking through the markets and village streets.
Tofo is often struck with tropical storms and cyclones, which leads to communities being harshly affected and under prepared due to the low level of infrastructure. Malaria is one of the biggest killers in Mozambique as it is a continental epidemic and the lack of medication increases the risk of death. Mozambique is the sixth poorest country in the world rated in 2019 and is struggling with corruption, political instability and a haunting history of 15-year civil war that ended in 1992. Education is limited in Tofo to a 7th grade level where after the students have to travel to other villages to further their education until matric. Technical skills are extremely limited to basic selling and buying, carpentry and fishing. Terrorist attacks in the north of Mozambique has affected the attractiveness of Tofo and this has affected the amount of financial injection from tourism into the community for Tofo to grow economically.
To sustain themselves, the community believes their main source of income would be to improve their tourism industry. To achieve a flourishing tourism industry, improving the skill set of the employees in their respective sectors would prove vital. This need has been identified in the fishing sector to replace pull starter engines with switch engines for their boats. However, basic mechanical skills will be required to mount and service these engines. In the carpentry industry the need for improved machinery and tools is evident. The agricultural sector is inclined towards the farming of cassava however; introduction of new crops and livestock breeding would be beneficial.
A real need has been identified to inject skills development programs into the community of Tofo. Economic empowerment for the inhabitants on a local and national level is required for Tofo to be able to compete and grow the economy through business aids, technical skills and mentorship is required to encourage the residents of Tofo. The real need lies in the difficulty of direct training and transferring of skills through outreach trips, which occur infrequently, possesses an input cost and the risk of trainees forgetting what they have learned and lack of motivation and encourage to develop their skill sets. A solution is required to implement a digital classroom whereby knowledge can be transferred on a weekly basis between a training room in Durban, South Africa and a mobile classroom in the market with an interpreter in Tofo, Mozambique.
An initiative called the Social Impact Project started by EWB-SA and distributed throughout South African universities has generated awareness of socio-economic problems for university chapters to solve. EWB-UKZN chapter is collaborating with churches, NGO’s and professional associations namely CityGate church, Glenridge church, Freedom House Ballito church, Capital City Church International and the honorary society Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers-HKN UKZN chapter. A need has been recognized for utilizing industry 4.0 in communicating and training the community of Tofo in field of agriculture, business and electronics and how these skills can improve the living conditions and way of living.
The first outreach was inspired in 2009 by Shaun Reid from CityGate church and experienced first-hand the struggle of the community of Tofo. Year after year, an annual outreach mission has been conducted to aid the community, supplying hygiene packs, carpentry aids like wood glue and engaging the community in a positive space through coaching and mentoring. The outreaches inadvertently also introduces some financial support to the community by purchasing goods and souvenirs. These outreaches even though have an encouraging effect are not sustainable in the long run for effective skills development and mentorship.
A creation of an interactive digital classroom in Tofo will lead to training the people in the communities on the skills they need to develop their various sectors. This will cut the cost of travel for personnel. The training includes basic mechanical skills, carpentry designs and agricultural solutions. This improved skill set will lead to growth in individuals’ businesses. The digital classroom serves to be the solution for continual hours of training at a reduced cost. In the case of the agricultural sector, the project looks to train people in the breeding of chickens by incorporating the use of incubators for the egg hatching process.
IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu (IEEE-HKN) is an international honour society (pioneer Electrical Engineering honour society) dedicated to encouraging and recognizing excellence in the fields of Electrical, Electronic and Computer engineering. The UKZN chapter (Mu Eta), specifically, places focus on positively impacting the surrounding community by leveraging our unique technical engineering skillset. The role of IEEE-HKN Mu Eta Chapter in this project is to develop a basic training programme that guides users to build and maintain an electronic-based system (e.g. an automated egg incubator). Through this programme, community members will be introduced to and educated on basic electronic principles. This will not only enable the community with the technical skillset to pursue future community-development endeavours, but can additionally improve their current lifestyle by employing electronic solutions to everyday problems. Thus, enabling community members with an electronic-based skillset can reap huge short-term and long-term socio-economic benefits.
The knowledge of this technology will not only improve the lives of the individuals involved in the training but also improve the life of the community as a whole. This would give the youth a purpose and potentially lower the alcoholism level. Employment opportunities will arise in South Africa for the team that trains as well as in Tofo for the team that actually implements the various projects facilitated by the trainer in the interactive classroom. Another scenario where the interactive training sessions would be beneficial is training individuals with basic mechanical skills in order to repair air-conditioners for example.
The interactive classrooms will provide social upliftment, skills development and allow members of Tofo who want to develop themselves access to skills training. As the project grows, there would be need for accreditation of skills and employment to assist with training. This will be an opportunity to generate employment on a greater scale in both Mozambique and South Africa. Introducing an industry 4.0 solution also allows for access to maintenance training for electronic applications.
For more insight, have a look at these videos
Carpentry aid handover.mp4
Umnandi & EWBSA recently hosted the annual entrepreneurship bootcamp at the Wits University. The event was one of the biggest of its kind as Umnandi brought 14 Entrepreneurship Students from Chalmers University to deliver a more refreshed & locally relevant course. The objective of the two-day workshop was to provide the students with the basic tools needed to identify opportunities & ideate solutions to solve some of the UN SDG’s. The workshop was also designed to inspire the students by exposing them to entrepreneurs within their context.
The first day included inspirational talks & a study of the SDG’s in the SA context. Poppy Finca - founder of Uzuri natural products, Jabulani Nene -Cofounder of 7 Khalaz & Tumisang Kalagobe - Cofounder of The Student Directory, spoke to the group about the initiation of their business, their current growth phase & tips on surviving “Start-Up” life. The students were then, set into groups and asked to find a community problem they are most passion about & start creating a business solution that could help improve that SDG. Each Umnandi member served as an advisor for each of the groups.
The second day included the teams presenting their amazing solutions & a few presentations on intellectual property & lean start up’s. The best ideas were selected & the winning teams announced at the end of the event & offered a small prize. The Umnandi presentations on the 2nd day focused on encouraging the students to start with all the free tools of the internet, use them to build up a loyal client base rather than seeking funding first. The students left with a better understanding of how to begin their entrepreneural journey.
The annual event was part of EWB-SA’s Youth Leadership portfolio which is catalyzing the development of resilient, resourceful & results driven young leaders.
Written by Nomathemba Magagula
Mozambique was pummeled with two Category 4 cyclones, Idai and Kenneth, in the span of only six weeks, creating one of the worst weather-related disasters to hit the southern hemisphere, bringing historic levels of flooding and severe winds. The city of Beira was one of the hardest hit areas, with over 90% of its infrastructure incurring damage. In response, EWB in partnership with UNDP deployed a scoping team to assess the damage.
EWB’s scoping team inspected a number of buildings and witnessed the extent and severity of the damage. In Buzi, a district outside of Beira, the flooding submerged the entire district. For reference, a member of the scoping team from Brazil, Vinícius Frujita, shows with his hand the highest water level during the cyclone.
In other parts of the country critical public buildings, such as hospitals, have had their roofs blown off and asbestos-laden debris fills the ground. These unsafe conditions have forced hospital staff to conduct surgeries and other procedures including births in tents.
EWB’s engineers will continue supporting UNDP in Mozambique throughout the summer. The team will be working with top government officials on policy and assisting in the reconstruction of large government buildings as well as smaller housing projects.
If you are interested in assisting with the UNDP Mozambique project or with similar work, we invite you to apply to join our Disaster Response and Recovery team here.
In 2018, EWB-SA partnered with Aurecon South Africa on a pilot to deliver Human centred design workshops to chapters in the Gauteng region. The Pilot focused on teaching chapters how they can use design thinking to frame complex engineering problems. This year, EWB-SA was proud to partner with Aurecon and Ambassadors to expand the initiative across the entire country. Workshops were hosted for UCT, Stellenbosch, UNISA, WITS, UJ, UKZN, UP and TUT.
The workshops were presented by EWB-SAs Director of Social impact and design thinking Paul Ssali, along with an Aurecon design thinking Engineer. Chapters were given a full introduction to design thinking process and taught how to apply it in the projects they tackle in 2019, as well as their careers as Engineers. With this initiative, we hope to pave the way for tomorrows engineers, engineers that are fully aware of their social responsibility, to a point that they fully integrate it into their future designs from the beginning. We want to show our young South African engineers that they have the capacity and the resources required to solve many of the African problems we face daily. By moulding these young minds, we hope to change the face of engineering in South Africa and add value to our continent. We would like to thank Aurecon and Anglo’s Ambassadors for Good, for all their support and guidance on this initiative. We plan to expand and make it even bigger in the coming years.
Every good engineer, needs a set of tools to help him/her achieve their goals. This year, in partnership with Aurecon and Ambassadors for Good, EWB-SA successfully launched the ToolShed Pilot. The ToolShed is platform that guides young engineers in the process of design thinking using examples and guided tools to allow the students to think and ask the right questions. It is a collection of many tools widely used in the industry, perfectly moulded to fit the needs of the communities we serve. This is the first step in developing tools to help build the understanding required to foster effective human centred design. We hope that with this platform, we will inspire many young engineers and professionals to pursue HCD in all their daily work. We would like to extend a special thank you to Aurecon and Abassadors for Good, for all their support as we all Zaynab Sadan for invaluable contribution in the development process.
Written by Paul Ssali
The Annual EWB-SA Leadership Retreat took place earlier this year from the 21st to 25th of January at the Anglo American’s Centre of Experiential learning. The theme was Leading Like You Mean It, a call for our young leaders to embrace their leadership journey as a tool for personal & social progress in their respective areas of influence. The week of extensive and fun training was centered around catalyzing the development of resilient, resourceful and results driven leaders.
The program was kicked off by the Executive Head of Anglo American, Andile Sangqu, who took the time to remind our budding engineers about the power of having a dream, writing the dream down and working daily towards achieving it. He mentioned that dreams have an ability to outlive the individual whilst quoting Mandela and Martin Luther King. The students felt genuinely moved by Sangqu’s open and candid nature and how he was a living example of being a manifestation of one’s dreams. This amazing opening key note set the tone for the rest of the retreat.
The first two mornings of the program began with a Discovery Insights Awareness Course which prompted the students to really understand themselves and their ability to relate to others. Each of the students took a psychometric test prior to the retreat to determine their personal profile which was unpacked during the class. The class was offered by Jill Harris, a Principal at the Anglo-American Centre of Experiential Learning. The students were amazed by the accuracy of the tool and reflected on how best to use these insights in their leadership journey going forward. Naturally, as young engineers, they were also very keen to understand the algorithm behind the tool.
The Retreat afternoons focused on educating the students on the fundamentals of being impactful EWB-SA Chapters, the different roles expected within the chapters and conversations on how to measure their impact. The chapter leaders also had an opportunity to plan for the 2019 academic year.
We had several conversations about different areas of personal leadership throughout the week. Starting with Brad Beira, Executive of Governance, Risk and Health at Constantia Insurance Company Limited, who had an open discussion about how to get what you want. He taught the team the core principals he uses in navigating the complexities of business.
Simon Sizwe Mayson, Assistant Director- Inner City Transformation Roadmap at City of Johannesburg, also took us through the fundamentals of defining and navigating communities. As a mindful meditation enthusiast, he also gave our students a moment to meditate during his heartfelt conversation.
We ended off the first two days with an exciting drumming session. The aim of this session was to ensure that the students had fun, created memories and formed bonds with their peers. It was such a party! We hoped this would improve inter-chapter cohesion in 2019.
Thursday, the busiest day in the program, focused on providing the students with tool kits as they progress. Wiebke Toussaint, EWB-SA cofounder, conversed with the students about her recent visit to Silicon Valley, sharing her insights on the tech industry and its shortcomings. She also highlighted the power of data and the different risks it poses for Africa if not managed properly.
Cikida Gcali, Capital and Productivity Consultant at Mckinsey & Company, and the founder of a digital publication for ambitious millennials called The Money Fam, spoke to the students about how to purposefully navigate their borders. She highlighted the importance of saying ‘No’, being consistent, taking the road less traveled, having a solid ecosystem and feeding your source. Her talk was aimed at ensuring the students have a tool box for managing their side hustle whilst keeping up with their studies and life in general.
Neo, Founder of Technovera, a technology start-up in health care, spoke to the students about the fundamentals of meaningful mentorship. He took us through a journey about how mentorship provided a platform for his excellence during his time in corporate and how he has used it as a tool to be empowered and to empower others over the years. He set the scene for an amazing speed-mentoring session later that afternoon. Nikita Vala, Product Data Manager at Absa and EWB-SA Alumni also had a conversation with our students about the power of succession planning within their chapters, on the continuity of projects and chapters on campus drawing from her experience as a former EWB-Wits Chairperson.
Charged with all this knowledge the students spent the afternoon speaking to several of the EWB-SA Alumni and two BLAST candidates in the speed-mentoring session. The mentors included Lara Da Sontas, Clement Kasalu, Dhruti Dheda, Nikita Vala, Prebantha, Roshne Rayners, Tumisang Kalagobe, Joani van Rooyen and Lesedi Ngoato. The students had a chance to ask these different leaders about how they are navigating their careers and personal lives. The idea was that the students could meet potential mentors.
The evening ended off with the chapters presenting back to EWB-SA on their best practises, 2018 lessons and 2019 plans. The students made sure they dressed up for this leg of the event and received attendance certificates at the end of the session.
After a packed week the students used the wheel of life concept to holistically reflect on their lives and to plan for their near futures. They also got an update on the Human Centered Design (HCD) course and how we plan to execute it in 2019. Once they gave the team feedback on the retreat, they were given the chance to head back to their respective campuses and started with their respective recruitment sessions.
The organising team, led by Oratile Malao included Ayanda Shongwe, Eunice Bohulu, Tshegofasto Tshaka, Awona Shumba, Gaelle Mabasa, Paul Ssali and Noma Magagula. This was a brand-new organizing team for EWB-SA and they challenged themselves to learn quite a lot in a short space of time. We are truly proud of the retreat they put together. Well done.
We partnered with Anglo American’s Ambassadors for good program, particularly with the Human Resource (Talent & Learning) team and the Centre of Experiential Learning. They were instrumental in the development of the program, providing beautiful and safe facilities with amazing scenery and funding. We are highly grateful for their coaching and contribution throughout the organization process and throughout the week.
We anticipate a busy year ahead for our students with a range of courses from EWB-SA such as the Human Centred Design Course, Design Challenge, Entrepreneurship in Engineering course, campus events and community projects. The retreat was just the right kick-off needed for our young leaders to truly lead like they mean it.
Written by Noma Magagula
Edited by Dhruti Dheda
Engineers Without Borders South Africa has partnered with EWB-UK to launch the global Engineering for People Design Challenge. Supported by the Anglo American Group Foundation, the programme aims to deliver a "Global Engineering" curriculum that equips graduates to understand the social and environmental impact of engineering decisions. The programme builds on 7 years of experience that EWB-UK has built in delivering creative course content to 31 universities in the UK. In South Africa, the Engineering for People Design Challenge is partnering with 5 engineering faculties to incorporate community and human centred design principles and practices into the undergraduate engineering curriculum in 2020. EWB-SA is proud to be working with academic institutions to realise an educational experience aligned with local needs, while addressing global challenges.
We are looking forward towards progress in curriculum transformation that the programme will inspire in South Africa and across our international community. Watch this space!
EWB-SA started the year off on a high note with the 7th Annual EWB-SA Leadership Summit, which is possibly the biggest event of the year for our student chapters.
The Summit which welcomed 28 student delegates from eight university student chapters was held from the 22 to 26 January 2018 at Anglo American’s Centre for Experiential Learning (CEL).
The 4 day Summit, themed ‘It begins with me’ led by Nomathemba Magagula was filled with informative sessions and fun activities. The sessions included inspiring speeches, engaging discussions from various prominent South African leaders, insightful project and discussion sessions. An additional educational component was the practical (experiential learning) sessions from the CEL’s resident experts and the EWB-SA volunteers.
At the Summit Gala Dinner, the chapters presented a reflection of the previous year. It was evident from their reflections, that despite failing, they remained resilient, resourceful and results driven.
EWB-SA has been working with student chapters for seven years and has realised the importance of allowing students to fail forward as it creates a group of young resilient and resourceful professionals.
EWB-SA prides itself on being a safe place for practicing leadership while simultaneously trying to reach out to local communities, hence focusing on empowering engineers so that they can grow empower communities.
This was followed by the SAIChE IChemE EWB-SA Event in February, giving SAIChE IChemE members a chance to find out more about the organisation.
Dr David Ming, co-founder of EWB-SA, introduced EWB-SA and what it aims to address in South African society. The main aim being the facilitation of the transfer of engineering skillsets into far reaching benefits for local communities using a project based approach. During project implementation, Human Centered Design (HCD) and rapid prototyping are commonly used methods to help members and their teams achieve project objectives at a fast pace.
Notable EWB-SA projects mentioned were the Green Day Care Center in Port Elizabeth which used green materials for building blocks; bio-digesters supplying energy to supplement or supply power to homes and the soap making project which taught local women to use extraction techniques to harness the smell of essential oils and aldo partnered with local lodges who could by the final soap products from the local women.
At the end of the evening, SAIChE IChemE was well informed about EWB-SA’s mission, methods, achievements and how they could get involved for future projects. This is hopefully the beginning of future collaborations with SAIChE IChemE.
One of EWB-SA's primary goals is to empower student chapters through the Human Centered Design (HCD) workshops that are attended by student chapters on an annual basis. The HCD workshops function as a means to educate chapters members on how to design project solutions with a human centric approach.
Two HCD workshops for the Gauteng EWB-SA chapters were facilitated through a collaboration between Aurecon and EWB-SA in May this year. This was a fruitful intersection of EWB-SA’s plan to empower student chapters with professional knowledge and Aurecon’s goal of imparting knowledge of human centric solutions to student organizations, particularly engineering students.
Aurecon’s design to innovate partner, Wim van Schalkwyk and mechanical engineer, Paul Ssali presented the HCD workshops with an Afrikan Design Innovation (ADI) theme. ADI acknowledges the continent's people and entrepreneurial promise and places them at the centre of the design process in order to create innovative solutions suited to the people for whom they have been created.
In 2019, EWB-SA hopes to host these workshops nationwide to all student chapters. The HCD workshops mark the beginning of a promising partnership between Aurecon and EWB-SA.
To spark the entrepreneurial side of engineering minds, EWB-SA organized an exciting workshop, in conjunction with Umnandi and conducted a workshop titled Entrepreneurial Thinking.
The workshop, which focused on introducing the skills needed for an entrepreneur to develop ideas and implement them in society, was facilitated by masters students from Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship in Sweden.
The workshop also featured the famous Egg Drop challenge, the objective of which is to build a contraption that will protect an egg being drop from a 5 meter height, with a limited budget and limited resources.
The completion of the challenge was followed by an interactive feedback session where the participants were introduced to Umnandi five step model, which embodied principles applied at Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship which regards to converting new ideas into reality.
This insightful workshop equipped our student chapters with the entrepreneurial arsenal necessary to convert their solutions to South African problems into lucrative sustainable schemes.
Towards the latter part of the year, EWB-SA hosted the Social Impact Challenge 2018 for all ten universities student chapters as part of the mandate to empower engineers to empower communities.
The Challenge gave members the opportunity to apply the human centric approach, that they were exposed through during the HCD workshops hosted earlier in the year, to solving complex issues in society.
EWB-SA partnered with Grassroot to tackle some of the issues faced by the Mzondi informal settlement located between Ivory Park (CoJ) and Tembisa (Ekurhuleni), and Mnadini, a township in the city of Roodeport situated west of Tshepisong.
Under the guidance provided by Grassroot and equipped with tools from the HCD workshops, students were able to engage communities to better understand their challenges. Using the information gathered, the students developed a design brief that addressed the challenges. On the 15th of September 2018, student chapters across the country, supervised by seasoned engineers unpacked problems to form sustainable solutions for each community. All the solutions generated in the session will be packaged and given back to the communities.
EWB-SA plans to award the winning team, the team with the best solution the opportunity to develop it further with professional mentorship and to encourage the use of this platform as a means to bring the skills of aspiring engineers and seasoned professionals together to enhance the understanding of solving community challenges.
This year the EWB-SA family extended to include a new student chapter and new members in key positions. At the beginning of 2018, EWB-SA welcomed Engineers without Borders- Sol Plaatje University (EWB-SPU).
EWB-SPU joined Geekulcha Student Society in their initiative of OpenCampus and hosted two technology events; one focused on Artificial Intelligence and explored its benefits and limitations and the other focused on Machine Learning and Big Data.
They also hosted a vacation work in Prieska, Northern Cape with the theme being the Northern Cape Green Pipeline: Innovation, Economy and Technology. They had over 100 participants who showed dedication and hard work throughout the week and identified problems in their communities, found solutions to them and moulded their ideas into digital solutions such as mobile applications, websites and electronics.
They are also planning to start a STEM initiative amongst school learners mostly from unprivileged backgrounds. The aim is to instil within them the willingness to learn more about these fields as most young people do not enter them due to lack of information so they don’t know what they are all about.
EWB-SA also welcomed Bronwynne Oosthuizen as the EWB-SA Community Manager. As the community manager, Oosthuizen will manage all relationships and communications for EWB-SA and is responsible for developing and introducing new systems to improve the internal workings of the organization.
Two of our members took up positions as new board EWB-SA members. Nomathemba Magagula joins the EWB-SA board as the head of the Youth Leadership Portfolio, where the main focus of her work will be improving the Annual National Leadership Retreat & Entrepreneurship in Engineering course. Paul Ssali will join the EWB-SA board as the head of the Design Thinking Portfolio where he will be in charge developing a strategic plan and implementation of Design Thinking within the organisation.
EWB-SA is committed to gender, cultural and racial diversity and represents over 2000 young engineers in five provinces across the country. As an organisation, EWB-SA encourages stimulating conversations and diverse perspectives to complex challenges.
An issue of the South African Institute for Civil Engineering's (SAICE) magazine, earlier this year, featured a rather demeaning and misinformed opinion piece by SAICE's CEO, Manglin Pillay. A piece which discredits the difficult journeys that many women have to navigate in hostile environments to pursue a career in technical fields and precluded 50% of the world's population from having the potential to successfully pursue technical careers, belittling not only the necessity of exactly this diversity, but also the fundamental tenets of human rights and equality.
Student chapters with young budding engineers have a big role to play if the engineering industry of tomorrow is to be different to today. EWB-SA has challenged student chapters to contribute to the creation a 'Diversity Code of Conduct' as commitment to the respect that not only individuals owe each other but also the communities that they serve. EWB-SA has been engaged with other bodies in the engineering sector since in order to push for decisive action and change with regards to discrimination and harassment.
EWB-SA aims to address the South African skill shortage crisis. At the brink of the fourth industrial revolution, numerous studies and reports show that South Africa does not have sufficient highly skilled individuals to support its growing, increasingly sophisticated economy. This trend is mirrored by other developing countries.
This skills shortage can be attributed to several factors, including: the lack of appropriately qualified high school graduates for Engineering and the Built Environment; the decline in the amount of academic staff or mentors at tertiary institutions and the low throughput of students in engineering, technologist and technician degrees.This skills shortage has already, in part, led to lower productivity, low competitiveness, slow adoption of technology and high production costs in South Africa.
The problem with equipping students in technical degrees with appropriate skills runs deeper. The vast field of Engineering and the Built environment has profound social impacts. It is necessary for students to contextualise the human condition and the social implications of their work. It is rare for a fresh graduate to possess the background necessary to support such an approach. Thus along with a technical education, students should be trained in terms of communication skills, global knowledge, entrepreneurial know-how and the ability to work in teams. Many believe that the only way to inculcate this diverse skill set in students is by assigning them real world problems. In these problems the focus is placed on projects rather than lectures.
EWB-SA aims to achieve this through student chapters and the undertaken projects by chapters and their members. These projects can double up as vacation work for engineering students. The purpose of these projects are to solve real world problems faced by particular communities. During the project, students liaise with professionals and sponsors to gain the skills necessary to complete the project, from the planning stage till the implementation stage. Students are involved in every aspect of the project and are trained at every level of the project.
The EWB-SA Technical Advisory Board (TAB), a group of professionals who volunteer their skills and experience, regularly meet with project heads from the student chapters to discuss project conception and implementation. Student chapters and their members also partake in the Human Centered Design (HCD) course as previously mentioned, which focuses on placing the human experience and condition at the center of the design process. This helps engineering students to contextualise the designs/projects in terms of their social impacts.
Currently, two of our student chapters are running vacation work projects; such as the Kutumela Molefi Primary Farm School project. The aim of the project was to rehabilitate the school at all levels. Progress on the project is ongoing and continuous. Another is a project in the KwaZakhele Township. Current major developments within the precinct of the pilot project include: the ongoing 200 Million Njoli Square and a R9.4 million road construction project for IPTS Bus route underway.
Any of the projects carried out by the student chapters can be viewed on the official EWB-SA website on the relevant student chapter webpage with the chapter contact details along with any advice, equipment, funding or to volunteer options are available.
- Dhruti Dheda, Editor
I had the privilege of interviewing Paul Ssali, a mechanical engineer and the one of EWB-SA’s new board members.
While growing up, Ssali always wanted to do something challenging and so decided on engineering. After graduating with a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Pretoria, he worked at a startup for a few months after which he joined the Energy Unit at Aurecon.
Ssali feels that he is as much solution to someone’s problem as they are to his problems and that progress can be only made by moving forward together, “I was raised to understand that if you want to go fast you go alone but if you want to go far, you go together, so the desire to work with and help people has grown with me my entire life,” he elaborates. He is driven by the desire of doing something bigger than himself. So when one of his friends approached him about an organisation of engineers doing cool things, some of which involved the completion a project at underprivileged primary school, he immediately bought into the idea and joined EWB-UP and eventually went on to join EWB-SA.
Currently as a new board member of EWB-SA, he heads the Design Thinking Portfolio, “design thinking is redefining the way things are made and how people interface them. I will be in charge of developing a strategic plan and implementing it within the organisation,” he explains. Ssali feels that the future holds some amazing opportunities for all EWB-SA members, “I don’t want to ruin the surprise, so please I urge everyone to get involved. There is a storm of awesomeness coming and I hope everyone gears up and shows up,” he exclaims.
Ssali believes that the communities he has served in the past few years have done a lot to empower him in ways that he couldn’t have ever imagined, “my contributions as an engineer were a small part of the process,” he says. He feels that EWB-SA provided him with the perfect platform to develop and use his skills, “I have been involved in a number of projects within the organisation that allowed me to not only think critically about problems but to apply a humancentric approach to diversify my knowledge,” he elaborates.
With regards, to finding a balance between his day job and his work with EWB-SA, he feels that, “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life... I do get my days when looming deadlines raise the stress levels, but the experience and the knowledge I’ve gained, far outweighs the challenges that come with it.”
His advice to aspiring young engineers is that, “success is extremely subjective so don’t allow anyone in the world to define that for you.”
Read more about this thoughtful engineer heading EWB-SA's Design Thinking Portfolio in an informative interview below.
1) Describe your engineering journey.
Growing up, I always wanted to do something challenging, so I graduated as a mechanical engineer from the University of Pretoria. I spent the next few months working for a startup. I eventually found myself at Aurecon as a mechanical engineer in the Energy Unit.
2) What prompted you to volunteer at EWB-SA?
One of my friends, the founder of EWB-UP approached me one-year after EWB-UP was formed. He told of an organisation of engineers doing really cool things, they had just completed a project at underprivileged primary school and I was immediately sold. So, I joined the executive committee to join him on the journey in 2014. I fell in love with the organisation and went on to volunteer at the national level as well.
3) As a new board member of EWB-SA and the head of the Design Thinking Portfolio, describe what your work at EWB-SA entails and what we can expect from you.
I am excited to see the challenges and growth that this opportunity will bring. Design thinking is redefining the way things are made and how people interface them. I will be in charge developing a strategic plan and implementing it within the organisation.
4) What sparked your interest in community development?
I am the solution to someone’s problem just as they are to mine. We can only move forward together. Growing up, I was raised to understand that if you want to go fast you go alone but if you want to go far, you go together, so the desire to work with and help people has grown with me my entire life. The idea of doing something bigger than myself still drives me today. They say if your dream is big enough for you to reach on your own, then you’re not dreaming big enough.
5) How have you been able to utilize your skills as an engineer to assist/ empower communities?
Honestly speaking, the communities I’ve served in the past few years have done a lot more to empower me in ways that I couldn’t have ever imagined. My contributions as an engineer were a small part of the process. I came to learn that my career as an engineer is more than building engines or sizing pumps. I discovered that I can use the critical thinking as an engineer to impact people lives.
6) What do you feel you have acquired/gained (both for your professional and personal development) through your association with EWB-SA?
EWB-SA has provided me with a platform to develop and use my skills in so many ways. I have been involved in a number of projects within the organisation that allowed me to not only think critically about problems but apply a humancentric approach to diversify my knowledge. I have been given the opportunity to grow myself as a leader with the guidance and mentorship from well-established industry leaders.
7) How do you maintain a balance between the work at your day job and your work at EWB-SA?
Right from my time as a chapter chairperson, finding a balance between acquiring my degree and my role with EWB-SA was a challenge. I loved my role, but I also needed to get my degree. It is a daily test of my character, but it constantly proved and still proves to me that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. My day job is demanding and requires a certain level of commitment, so I make it a point to balance the two. Allocating time to each has allowed me to achieve that. I do get my days when looming deadlines raise the stress levels, but the experience and the knowledge I’ve gained, far outweighs the challenges that come with it.
8) Are there any interesting projects that you are working on currently or in the near future?
We are on a journey to redefine design thinking within the organisations, there are some amazing opportunities for all our members in the near future. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, so please I urge everyone to get involved. There is a storm of awesomeness coming and I hope everyone gears up and shows up
9) What advise would you give to aspiring engineers?
Finding a career that will not only change your life but the lives of all those around you is a gift from God. Living your God given dream is the greatest reward any man or woman should desire. So, if engineering gives you that feeling then get ready and take the leap. Success is Extremely Subjective so don’t allow anyone in the world to define that for you.
Paul Ssali interviewed by Dhruti Dheda
I had the privilege of interviewing Nomathemba Magagula, a metallurgical and materials engineer and one of EWB-SA's new board members.
Magagula’s interest in engineering began quite early, while in high school, with her passion for wanting to solve African issues particularly in the mining sector. Her superb performance in her matric finals, resulted in her tertiary education being funded by United Manganese of the Khalahari, “I signed up for Metallurgical & Materials Engineering course with the grand idea of helping accelerate the talent pool refining African minerals on African soil,” she recalls.
Her academic performance at the University of Witwatersrand was no less illustrious from becoming a member of the Golden Key society to having her final year research project published by the South African Institute of Mining & Metallurgy (SAIMM). After graduation, she joined a 2 year rotational graduate program (joint partnership between Caterpillar & Barloworld Equipment). After which she joined Caterpillar officially in their Aftermarket Solutions Division as a Sales Support Consultant working for the EAME-CIS-CIND, “Caterpillar has been exciting in that there’s a lot of travel involved so I get to see the world whilst doing challenging work I love,” she explains.
Magagula has a strong NGO background with her grandfather being her biggest influence for the NGO work he did for the disabled community of building two disability centers in Mpumalanga. This instilled the desire in her to uplift the community, “I always knew if I were to work in engineering, it would have to be a platform for me to empower others,” Magagula elaborates.
Throughout her degree, she held various positions at EWB-Wits (Project manager, Public Relations Officer, Vice Chair). Caring for the community comes naturally to Magagula, she was already volunteering at “soup kitchen” programs & collecting the dining halls packs to give to the poor before joining EWB-SA, “I just needed a concreate platform to start doing this in a sustainable way within my chosen sector,” she explains. In her second year, she did some work with EWB-SA & Hatch Goba, conducting a literature review on the condition of Juskei river. That was her first project, “it felt like an extension of his [her grandfather’s] work but in the engineering sector,” she recalls.
At EWB-SA, Magagula started the professional chapter, ‘Mining for Shared Value' which focused on the challenges arising within mining communities, “I learnt that the word ‘community’ is subjective.” She soon discovered that the best way for people to benefit from the mines in their communities is to become suppliers of skills or products to these local mines. Her focus then shifted to, “ensuring students can start to understand their power as engineers in the context of entrepreneurship.” This resulted in the Entrepreneurship in Engineering workshops coming about for the EWB-SA student chapters in partnership with Umnandi, as an annual ongoing course. Magagula also led the planning and implementation of very successful national student retreat earlier this year, “so the community I have been able to empower is that of engineering students as they transition into young professionals using lessons I learned when I was in that phase of their lives,” she emphasises.
As a new board member of EWB-SA and the head of the Youth Leadership Portfolio, her main focus will be improving the Annual National Leadership Retreat & Entrepreneurship in Engineering course, “we want to ensure that the summit’s impact on chapter success is improved, that chapters heads are empowered with tools to position themselves as resilient, resourceful & results driven leaders , measure their on – campus impact better & maintain increased synergies with EWB-SA,” Magagula elaborates.
As a creative leader, EWB-SA has helped Magagula harness her passions into tangible actions. She has learnt how to “collaborate with small groups and large groups of people… how to navigate diversity within these large groups.” She feels that she has modelled her career from the mentoring that she has received both formally and informally from EWB-SA throughout the years. Career wise, she believes that “being a part of EWB-SA has led to various types recognition at work… Essentially, I am able to identify a gap within my work place culture and I always have tangible and actionable concepts and exercises that I can pull in from my experiences working within EWB-SA to share,” she explains. Most importantly, Magagula feels that EWB-SA has taught her the importance of open feed-back loops, “there’s critical power in reflection as it can improve an idea, event or concept you are working with… I now actively reflect to improve on myself in my work and personal environment too.”
With regards to being a woman in the engineering space, she feels that “there are differences between us that we ought to tackle head on so we can be authentic in our experiences with each other in the work place. I do not pretend to be ‘one of the guys'. I’m Noma, an individual… Once people begin to handle me as a person , we get along just fine.”
Her advice to young aspiring engineers is to “finish your degree. It gets so tough trying to cope with getting an education & getting exposure as you work on different sides of your character… take care of your mental & physical health. I always look at the happiest years of my life and I try maintain the elements that I had then… build a strong network during your years at varsity, knowing the right people is absolutely key as you come up in your journey because they can unlock doors you didn’t even know about.”
Magagula is not only an engineer but also an enthusiastic gardener and often refers to her work using gardening metaphors, “I always manage my big rocks of the week, submit those and then move on to the filler tasks in between.” Read more about this ambitious, hardworking and perceptive young engineer in the insightful interview below which is nothing short of a healthy green garden blooming with colourful knowledge flowers.
I started growing an interest in engineering when I was in grade 11, I was quite passionate about being impactful in helping solve African issues particularly in the mining sector. In matric, I entered a competition by the Department of Mineral Resources where I was exposed to a bursary program for deserving students. We got a chance to meet the minister of Mineral Resources before my matric exams and she committed with the help of the United Manganese of the Khalahari to sponsor my university education should I do well in my exams. I did .. and I signed up for Metallurgical & Materials Engineering with the grand idea of helping accelerate the talent pool refining African minerals on African soil.
I started my degree at Wits University in 2012 and graduated in 2015. I made the Golden Key society & the Dean’s List in 2013, and I had my final year research project published by the SAIMM (South African Institute of Mining & Metallurgy) with the help of Prof Sacks. Throughout the 4 year degree I held various positions at EWB-Wits ( Project manager, Public Relations Officer, Vice Chair). I then joined a rotational graduate program that was a joint partnership between Caterpillar & Barloworld Equipment for 2 years. The program served as a solid platform for me to learn more about corporate culture. At the end of the program I joined Caterpillar officially in their Aftermarket Solutions Division as a Sales Support Consultant working for the EAME-CIS-CIND (Europe, Africa Middle , Commonwealth Independent States & China & India) region. Joining Caterpillar has been exciting in that there’s a lot of travel involved so I get to see the world whilst doing challenging work I love.
In truth, I come from a strong NGO background. My grandfather was highly respected for the NGO work he did for the disabled community in our area. He got into a car accident before I was born so he was using a wheelchair , then used his influence to build 2 centers for the disabled in Mpumalanga. He was also my biggest influencers growing up so I always knew if I were to work in engineering, it would have to be a platform for me to empower others. In second year, he passed away during my exams, I felt a genuine frustration as I didn’t get a chance to send him off because I was “studying” .. I was ready to quit engineering but then I got an invite to do some work with EWB-SA & Hatch Goba when they were conducting a literature review on the condition of Juskei river. That was my first project & I joined the committee the next year and started playing my part. It felt like an extension of his work but in the engineering sector.
3) As a new board member of EWB-SA and the head of the Youth Leadership Portfolio, describe what your work at EWB-SA entails and what we can expect from you.
The main focus of my work will be improving the Annual National Leadership Retreat & Entrepreneurship in Engineering course. We want to ensure that the summit’s impact on chapter success is improved, that chapters heads are empowered with tools to position themselves as resilient, resourceful & results driven leaders , measure their on – campus impact better & maintain increased synergies with EWB-SA. We’re exploring how the material shared during the retreat can be better distributed to the members who do not make it on to the summit in that academic year. We want to ensure that we improve the “active” membership pool within the organization. We’re genuinely out to “empower engineers to empower communities”.
As stated above , I learnt to care about my community as an integral part of my daily life as I was physically living with & watching my grandad help people on a daily basis. It felt like the most natural thing to me. When I started at Wits , before joined EWB-SA I was already doing “soup kitchen” programs & collecting the dining halls packs to give to the poor. I just needed a concreate platform to start doing this in a sustainable way within my chosen sector.
5) How have you been able to utilize your skills as an engineer to assist/ empower communitiescommunities?
I learnt that the word “community” is subjective. When I finished university I set out to understand what “Shared Value” meant for mining communities hosting mines. I started a professionals chapter called “mining for shared value” where we hosted sessions that aimed at sparking conversations around the different challenges arising within mining communities. I learnt that the best way for people to benefit from mines being in their communities is by becoming suppliers of skills or products to the local mines. A range of engineers were not looking at how easily they could become suppliers thus my focused then shifted into ensuring students can start to understand their power as engineers in the context of entrepreneurship. I then focused on organizing the Entrepreneurship in Engineering workshops for some of the student chapters in partnership with Umnandi. This is an ongoing course that we will be offering annually. I also had the opportunity to lead the planning of the national student retreat in 2018. I also actively support the girl child by volunteering at WomEng when they need us. So the community I have been able to empower is that of engineering students as they transition into young professionals using lessons I learned when I was in that phase of their lives.
As a creative leader EWB-SA has taught me how to harness my passions into tangible actions. This is how MSV was initiated and how its settled into its current direction. Its taught me how to collaborate with small groups and large groups of people, as well as a range of collaborative tools that could help me along the way such as Trello, Slack & Planning Spreadsheets. It’s also taught me how to navigate diversity within these large groups. It’s given me the platform to grow a solid network both within the EWB-SA context & other engineering based bodies and my network includes professionals , students & non engineering individuals. I have also been mentored both formally and informally across the years which has shaped how I have modelled out my career. Career wise, being a part of EWB-SA has led to various types recognition at work ,I have assisted in the Festival of Ideas judging panel, I have helped launch a “festival of ideas” within Barloworld.
I have been able to join the Women In Network Johannesburg branch leadership committee at Caterpillar and brought in content from the EWB-SA National Retreat to the office (Ted Talk on Radical Candor) . My latest endeavour is to bring speed mentoring to our office. Essentially, I am able to identify a gap within my work place culture & I always have tangible & actionable concepts and exercises that I can pull in from my experiences working within EWB-SA to share.
EWB-SA has also taught me the importance of open feed-back loops. There’s critical power in reflection as it can improve an idea, event or concept you are working with. It can also improve how you project yourself as a leader . I now actively reflect to improve on myself in my work and personal environment too. The organization has constantly given me a platform to express my views and they have constantly addressed my questions & concerns with respect which gives me as a young engineer confidence in my voice mattering and meaning something. I bring this same confidence to my work place.
I honestly take it as it comes. I always manage my big rocks of the week, submit those and then move on to the filler tasks in between. I ensure I do the most important & urgent tasks on both sides and then make time to do the other tasks. I try maintain EWB-SA work for my Friday’s but some meetings with stake holders are during the week. I work for an organization that allows us to manage our own calendars thus I can always shift things to accommodate what needs to be done first , The big rocks.
8) How would you describe your experience as a woman in the engineering space?
Its genuinely a different conversation once I mention I am an engineer. It’s a conversation starter, and it makes the guys look at me as more than just a black woman. There are differences between us that we ought to tackle head on so we can be authentic in our experiences with each other in the work place. I do not pretend to be “one of the guys” . I’m Noma, an individual , an interesting individual at best. Once people begin to handle me as a person , we get along just fine. I am also fortunate to be in a company that is very diverse in terms of nationalities, often the struggles of gender and race are amplified in the context of South Africa because of our past but I’ve found that my team is much better with addressing openly gender/race issues as their experiences with both are global.
9) Are there any interesting projects that you are working on currently or in the near future?
In terms of work, I am blessed to be doing a project I really love which is inclined to all the beliefs I had entering the engineering community. It is however confidential at this stage. In my personal life I am writing a poetry book & sharing some of my poems on my social media platforms too. I also travel abroad a lot through work so I share that part of my life too. Otherwise on most days I am tending to my garden, reading & nurturing my mental & physical health. If you’re keen to know me a bit better follow me on Instagram or twitter @NomathembaBellz.
10) What advise would you give to aspiring engineers?
Firstly, finish your degree. It gets so tough trying to cope with getting an education & getting exposure as you work on different sides of your character. But always tackle the big rocks. Secondly take care of your mental & physical health. I always look at the happiest years of my life and I try maintain the elements that I had then. For example as a child growing up I was always schooling, gardening, helping with my granddad’s NGO work & telling stories. If you look carefully I have grown to do exactly that as an adult and it keeps me so centered and aligned. Find the big rocks that keep your person alive and make them work for you. The third thing would be to build a strong network during your years at varsity , knowing the right people is absolutely key as you come up in your journey because they can unlock doors you didn’t even know about. Get mentors , multiple mentors, be a part of communities like EWB-SA or anything you’re interested in an start building your name.
Nomathemba Magagula interviewed by Dhruti Dheda
I recently interviewed Rachel Kakololo, a civil engineer and a member of both Engineers without Borders- Namibia (EWB-NA) and the Namibian Society of Engineers (NASE). Kakololo graduated with a Bachelor in Engineering Degree from The Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST) and subsequently started working for the Roads Authority. Her first project was the upgrading of the Windhoek-Okahandja road to dual carriageway. The experience has been embedded in her memory and has strengthen her resolve to spend her life in engineering, “I have always aspired to be in the deep-end of engineering, as I believed that is the best way to learn.”
Kakololo spent a great deal of her formative years in the village and when she later moved to the city, she noticed the discrepancy between the standard of living in the rural areas as compared to the cities, “standards of living in our rural areas needs to improve. My drive to put the extensive knowledge taught in engineering in practice was overpowering.” Hence she became part of a technical committee that was tasked with mass land servicing in order to address the issue of land and housing scarcity in the country. With the launch of NASE in 2016 and the creation of EWB-NA as its social responsibility body, Kakololo saw an opportunity, “to involve a wider spectrum of technical professionals in solving community challenges collectively under one umbrella”.
During the launch of NASE, EWB-NA established connections with EWB-SA who warmheartedly endorsed the formation of EWB-NA. The recently concluded Namibian Engineering Week, saw EWB-SA Cofounder, Wiebke Toussaint give an insightful presentation on Community-centered engineering and the economical execution of projects. Kakololo hopes, “to grow these ties and encourage information sharing channels between EWB-NA and EWB-SA.”
Her duties within EWB-NA range from coordinating, liaising with community representatives, local councils and their engineers, which would entail working together on community based projects by volunteering expertise and time of the organisations engineers. EWB-NA’s open door policy enables members and the community to engage EWB-NA on issues affecting them and to find appropriate solutions. She is particularly passionate about the change in mindset, particularly amongst the Namibian youth, “I believe we all have immerse potential that can easily be unleashed under the right guidance.” Thus during the EWB-NA awareness drives, the organisation visits schools to encourage the youth to take up STEM careers. Not surprisingly, EWB-NA’s membership has grown over the years with technical professionals from all over the country ready to serve the community.
Kakololo feels that whilst working with EWB-NA to devise solutions to complex community problems, her “problem solving approaches have advanced... [and her] people skills have drastically improved too.” Kakololo has many projects under her belt and is currently working with Minds in Action and Friends in Education to enforce STEM education in school curriculums and is also aims to volunteer EWB-NA's expertise on Ministry of Education infrastructure development projects. A long term problem that EWB-NA is trying to resolve is the flood and drought mitigation measures for the northern Namibian region.
Kakololo sadly notes that engineering has historically been an inhospitable profession for women and that this has made many women shy away from STEM careers; but she also positively reasons that recent statistics have shown an improvement in the number of women joining the STEM field. Kakololo believes that, “women bring unique traits to the profession; [women] are more observant than [their] male counterparts are; which aids [them] in leadership as [they] can quickly pin point strengths and weaknesses.” Her advise to aspiring engineers is to “never stop learning and develop an innovative mind-set, explore and always be ready to serve and give back to society through skills application.”
Read more about this determined engineer and her journey in the insightful interview below.
I’ve always been fascinated by science, and the idea that engineers bring ideas to life e.g; where there was once just bush and rubble a beautiful multi-story structure and a road would rise. It is for that very same reason Civil Engineering was an ideal fit for me. In addition, it enables one to contribute to the holistic development of their community and country.
I graduated with a Bachelor in Engineering Degree at The Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST) in 2014 and subsequently started working for the Roads Authority. I was fortunate enough to land a bursary in my first year that enabled me to work during semester breaks so I had quite a lot of exposure to the industry before graduation hence I had very high expectations.
I have always aspired to be in the deep-end of engineering, as I believed that is the best way to learn. My first project was the upgrading of the Windhoek-Okahandja road to dual carriageway. I learnt a lot on construction/project management, claims resolutions and contracts administration on this respective project. The experience is still embedded in my memory and it strengthen my resolve to spend my life in engineering. Overall, it has been an amazing journey thus far.
2) What prompted your involvement in EWB-Namibia?
The realisation that what we engineers do is essential to everyday life and directly affects our communities in the essence that our work is to create products and structures that are used by people to improve lives. I wanted to give back to our community. During my studies, I was part of a group of engineering students that frequently visited respective orphanages in the informal settlements of Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek. It’s during these visits that we were exposed to the harsh realities that most of our community members were faced with; from sanitation challenges, lack of ablution facilities and safe drinking water as well as adequate shelter to name but a few. When the Namibian Society of Engineers (NASE) launched in 2016 with EWB-NA as its social responsibility body, I saw an opportunity to involve a wider spectrum of technical professionals in solving community challenges collectively under one umbrella.
3) Describe what your work at EWB-Namibia entails.
My duties within EWB-NA range from coordinating, liaising with community representatives, local councils and our engineers – working together on community based projects by volunteering our expertise and time. We have an open door policy that enables members and the community at large to engage us on issues affecting them and to find fitting solutions. We rally Namibian engineers to adopt a spirit of volunteerism and attend to the socio-economic needs of Namibians, particularly those in rural/ informal and remote areas. We believe there is a lot our engineers can do for our communities, so we will harness their capabilities and put them to work for the rural and remote societies of our country as volunteers. EWB-NA’s membership has grown over the years with technical professionals from all over the country ready to serve their respective community.
Having spent a great deal of my formative years in the village and moving to the city at the age of eight presented a change in environment that helped me realize just how much of a gap existed in terms of development and access to basic needs such as water, sanitation etc. The standards of living in our rural areas needs to improve. My drive to put extensive knowledge taught in engineering in practice was overpowering. In 2015, I was part of a technical committee that was tasked with the mass land servicing. The committee oversaw progress of services in 3 pilot towns (Windhoek, Walvis bay and Oshakati) in order to address the issue of land and housing scarcity in the country.
5) How have you been able to utilize your skills as an engineer to assist/empower communities?
Having worked on a range of mostly infrastructure development projects in the past three years of my career has enabled me to directly improve the quality of life for my community members. Working with communities to deliver sustainable solutions to complex social, economic and environmental problems such as hygiene and provision of safe drinking waters has been rewarding.
I am particularly passionate about the mindset-change especially amongst our youth. I believe we all have immerse potential that can easily be unleashed under the right guidance. During our EWB-NA awareness drives; we visit respective schools to sensitise and encourage the youth to strive to reach greater heights and take up careers in STEM discipline and subsequently contribute to the development of their respective communities.
6) What do you feel you have acquired/gained (both for your professional and personal development) through your association with EWB-Namibia?
When working to devise solutions to complex community problems, it is vital to have a good understanding of the context of the problems to be solved, over the years; my problem solving approaches have advanced. Safe to say my people skills have drastically improved too.
7) How would you describe your experience as a woman in the engineering/work space?
Sadly, engineering has historically been an inhospitable profession for women, which made many women shy away from careers in STEM in the past. However, statistics have shown a staggering improvement in the number of women joining the profession. Women are afforded the same opportunities at the table. My line of work involves a lot of project and contract management. Usually working around the clock to meet rather tight deadlines, coordinating finances and liaising with communities. Women bring unique traits to the profession; we are more observant than our male counterparts are; which aids us in leadership as we can quickly pin point strengths and weaknesses.
8) How do you maintain a balance between the work at your day job and your work at EWB-Namibia?
The work I do at EWB-NA compliments my job to certain extend in the sense that they are both centred on community development. The best aspect about this is that I am always busy doing work I enjoy. This in turn helps me produce my best work, which in turn keeps production at optimal levels.
9) Do you foresee any future collaborations or projects between EWB-Namibia and EWB-SA?
Most definitely. In 2016, at the launch of the Namibian Society of Engineers (NASE) and its social responsibility arm for social responsibility-EWB-NA; we established connections with EWB-SA who warmheartedly endorsed the establishment of EWB-NA. At the recently concluded Engineering Week, we had an insightful presentation from the Co-Founder of EWB-SA - Ms Wiebke Toussaint. The presentation was titled Community-centered Engineering and presented a great platform to engage the audience on how to find viable solutions and execute community centred projects economically. We hope to grow these ties and encourage information sharing channels between EWB-NA and EWB-SA.
10) Are there any interesting projects that you are working on currently or in the near future?
The 5th day of the recently concluded Engineering week unfolded under the theme “The role of Community Engineering in Nation Building”. Seminars and presentations on this meant to highlight the importance of volunteering our expertise to help better our communities in terms of technical development. The day concluded with handing over of goods to a local orphanage.
EWB-NA is in the long run trying to equip communities to be self-sufficient in maintaining their infrastructures through awareness campaigns.
We are currently working together with Minds in Action and Friends in Education to enforce STEM education in school curriculums and volunteer our expertise to consult on infrastructure development projects under the Ministry of Education.
One of the problems, we are looking to tackle in the long run is the flood and drought mitigation measures for the northern region of Namibia, where we hope to work with the office of the Ministry of Works and Transport in finding means to channel flood water and provide drainage structures.
11) What advice would you give to aspiring engineers?
Engineers are an important part of our progressive human race. My advice to aspiring engineers is to never let anyone undermine their ability. Never stop learning and develop an innovative mind-set, explore and always be ready to serve and give back to society through skills application.
Rachel Romenzo Kakololo interviewed by Dhruti Dheda
Empowering Engineers to Empower Communities
2018 | EWB-SA is a registered non-profit company | NPC 2013/014531/08