- 14 June 2016
The Botswana International University of Science & Technology (BIUST) scooped third (3rd) prize in the Parastatals category at the just ended Business Botswana Northern Trade Fair held in Francistown under the theme “Connecting Ideas; Creating Opportunities”.
For this year, BIUST participation was not only part of the strategy of continually increasing public awareness about its mandate of transforming Botswana’s economy from being resource-based to knowledge-based through skills capacity building in Engineering, Science and Technology, but also aligned the theme to the university’s vision of aiming to “be a premier research based university in Science, Engineering and Technology , Internationally recognised for the quality and excellence of its teaching and learning, research, innovation and engagement”, hence showcased three innovative projects by both undergraduate and postgraduate students.
One of the projects exhibited was a research focusing on the development and adaptation of a Perceptual Robot as a tool of Knowledge transfer for HIV/AIDS in Botswana among adolescents by Mr Bonolo Nnyoni, A postgraduate student under the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering.
The project is a prototype system based on Microsoft’s Kinect sensor and has been developed to recognize HIV/AIDS frequently asked questions (FAQs) which responds with answers, gestures and skeleton tracking algorithms used when detecting human presence. According to Nyoni “the results have shown that Natural User Interface can reliably be used in real-time to improve communication throughput and perform tasks repeateadly”.
Another postgraduate student, Mr Mompoloki Pule from Department of Electrical, Computer and Telecommunications Engineering, supervised by Professor Abid Yahya exhibited a Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) monitoring system. Water quality monitoring is essential to the provision of clean and safe water. In Botswana, Water Utilities Corporation (WUC), has adopted a conventional-like process that employs several independent hand-held meters for sampling different water quality parameters manually. However, this process has proved to be ineffective since it is expensive, time consuming, requires considerable human resource capacity and lacks real-time results to promote proactive response to water contamination. In this work, a ZigBee based WSN solution has been developed which can operate for more than a year without recharging its battery. The hardware experimental setup was able to take measurements remotely, and successfully updated the data mimics in real time. The proposed system managed to sample water quality parameters in real time with the same accuracy as currently adopted methods. In addition, the system is autonomous, easy to install, highly scalable and has a relatively high sampling rate which improves the temporal resolution of the monitoring process.
The other project by another postgraduate student from Department of Physics and Astronomy, Mr Ndakidzilo Nthoiwa supervised by Dr Albert Juma was a parabolic trough collector and receiver prototype. A parabolic trough is a type of solar thermal collector that is straight in one dimension and curved like a parabola in the other two, with a highly reflective material lined on the inside. A receiver is mounted at the focal point of the curved parabolic collector to superheat a fluid (water) flowing through it to steam. The temperature of the ambient and of the inlet and outlet to the receiver will be measured using thermocouple thermometers while varying the mass flow rate and diameter of the receivers under local terrestrial conditions in Palapye.
The steam produced through this technology can be used in a variety of applications including process heating, atomization, humidification, power generation, sterilization in hospitals and other different industrial purposes. According to Nthoiwa, in this study the parabolic trough collector (PTC) and receiver system prototype were fabricated at Supu metal workshop in Palapye using locally available materials purchased from hardware shops in Palapye and Gaborone. The PTC and receiver system were designed such that the collector could be adjusted to have its aperture (opening) perpendicular to the sun on the horizon at solar noon at any season of the year.
Nthoiwa explained that “Considering the high solar irradiation and over 3200 hours of sunshine in Botswana, this study might serve as a breakthrough in resolving a number of problems including Greenhouse gas emissions from power generation using conventional energy sources. With this project, the public can be educated about PTC solar thermal technology besides solar water heaters and photovoltaic. It can be used as a proof of concept for the application of solar thermal technology in power production and other applications mentioned above”.
The University’s curriculum takes into account the needs of the private sector and is driven by the mission of BIUST to contribute to the development of the economy towards a knowledge-based economy through research, therefore BIUST will continue to work closely with the private sector and use platforms such as BBNTF to meet emerging skills needs of the industry, as well as to identify challenges that can be solved through applied research.