How Team Afrisol Won at the ALA Summer Engineering Academy

Our goal at ALA SEA is to develop the next generation of African engineers with leadership mindset using our designed engineering leadership framework which integrates the conventional engineering design process and traditional leadership traits.

Central to our values in the AL for Infrastructure network is connecting our young leaders to stimulating opportunities in the infrastructure sector, supported by industry partners and professionals who share knowledge and transfer skills. Inspired to solve problems, they advance us into the future providing innovative solutions whilst harnessing the power of technology. The ALA Summer Engineering Academy (SEA) is a program primed for this outcome.

“The goal is to facilitate and share the impact of an engineering leadership framework that is derived from the conventional engineering design process, paralleled by the African Leadership Academy leadership model. The framework, we believe will be able to train the next generation of African engineers”. – Phenyo Tshwantsho ALA SEA curriculum coordinator.

About the Program

The SEA program was established to promote STEM education and develop a pipeline of engineering professionals through the creation of the Afristem Centre of Excellence. Students with a passion for STEM disciplines from Nigeria, Angola and Egypt are identified and exposed to the engineering design process and learn about the inter-disciplinary nature of the engineering sector. During the program the students are grouped into teams, are presented with a present-day engineering challenge and are required to design a practical solution.

Africa’s energy systems face an enormous challenge. The continent currently has the lowest electricity generation capacity and experiences the most acute forms of energy poverty in the world. The reliance on solid biomass for cooking and heating by the continent’s 790 million population, coupled with the harsh consequences of climate change renders the burning of fossil fuels as an energy source unviable, necessitating the need for engineers to design sustainable solutions. This year’s challenge was “Harnessing Renewable Energy Resources To Address The Energy Crisis In Africa“.

Skills Development Areas

Crucial to the program is the development of leadership skills for professional development. Students were equipped with tools to successfully execute their goals with equal emphasis placed on hard and soft skills. For instance, teams comprised of students from different countries who had not previously studied nor worked together, therefore relationship building was prioritized to facilitate interpersonal communication and to boost team morale. The students further grappled with the computer-aided design (CAD) application . All teams demonstrated their determination and student mastery of Tinker CAD was evident during prototype development of the engineering design process. “The fervent curiosity of the students was apparent in the daily group discussions and led several student teams to propose solutions that were not only based on the African context but also aligned with Chevron’s low carbon future and global sustainability strategy,” said Maputi Botlhole, Mentor -ALA SEA 2021.

Insights from the Design Challenge Winners – Team Afrisol

Kareem El Kenany,  Aishat Idara Taofiq, Yasmeen Ashraf

Describe your approach and design solution

We built on the existing Concentrated Solar Panel (CSP) Technology (a structure that concentrates the sun rays on a heliostat and reflects the thermal energy of the sun on a boiler, converting the water in the boiler to steam and channeled towards driving turbines to generate electricity).

However, we had made several modifications to this technology with great changes made to the areas of storage, effectiveness and cost. We sought out ways to enable the CSP system to still be able to provide electricity even in situations or areas of lower sunlight by using a storage medium more effective due to its high latent energy, reusable property and is environmentally friendly which was molten salt. We were also able to solve the problem that occurred when the sun rays change their position using mosaic panels with each module arranged in the form of a  semi-fresnel and a central receiver driven by a low-cost tracking system which allows the rays of the sun to be more concentrated without moving the entire panel. Safety of the CSP system was also taken into consideration as we had developed pressure plates as an emergency escape valve in case the pressure in the boiler becomes too high for the boiler to withstand. All materials used in our modified CSP system are not expensive and can be locally sourced.

What have you learned from participating in the program and why do you think this type of program is important?

One of the things I’m very grateful for is teamwork. Throughout the whole program, our team faced a lot of challenges and together we were able to overcome them. Having the chance to mix ideas with people from different regions does indeed lead to a superior solution. We’ve also learned new approaches and techniques to use when faced with any issue to come up with the most effective solution. Such a program is incredibly important as it allows one to grow many new skills and be exposed to new and diverse approaches.

What are your aspirations for Africa regarding technology and innovation, and what do you hope to contribute?

  • “Finding the most suitable technology to best utilizes Africa’s tremendous and rich geography in hopes of improving the wellbeing of African nations.” – Kareem
  • “In regards to technology and innovation in Africa, my aspirations revolve around developing Africa’s human and social capital through education and skills emphasizing science and technology. Raising the level of productivity, industrialization, research and competitiveness in Africa’s innovation sector. Exploring the vast potential of Africa’s technologically inclined minds and putting in place measures to sustainably manage and utilize the continent’s rich biodiversity. I do hope to contribute invaluable service, ideas and skills that would propel Africa to the level of a top-notch innovative continent in the world.” – Aishat

Reflections from ALA SEA Program Director, Dr. Oluseyi Aberefa

Engineers are often said to be hired for technical mastery, fired for poor people skills, and promoted for leadership and management competencies. Our goal at ALA SEA is to develop the next generation of African engineers with leadership mindset using our designed engineering leadership framework which integrates the conventional engineering design process and traditional leadership traits.

  • Contributors: O. Aberefa, P. Tshwantsho, M. Botlhole, K. El Kenany, A. I Taofiq.

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