For as long as engineering has been, mechanical systems have existed. And, their undisputed significance to humanity has only intensified with the passing of time. Over the last few decades, however, the emergence of the digital wave has seen the line that separates engineering and technology become increasingly blurred; it won’t be too long before those two fields morph into one giant multi-functional, world-changing organism. And so, one wonders; how can young engineers and engineering undergraduates look to remain relevant in the landscape of the future?
Recently, the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) shot a mini-documentary, the subject of which was the final year projects of John Oricha and Ayodeji Adenikinju of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Ibadan. The former designed and assembled a functional rocket and the latter, a quadcopter. These projects were well received by the general public and even went on to earn glowing commendations from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Idowu Olayinka. But that video was simply the tip of a rather impressive iceberg. Some other final year projects included Popoola Abimbola’s Virtual Reality Classroom, Adediran Enoch’s robotic arm programmed to identify, select and separate plastic bottles of different kinds, and Ohwevwo George’s vehicle plate-detection system for UI traffic. Engineering projects founded upon knowledge of Machine Learning, Virtual Reality, Robotics. The future, right now.
One thing is clear, mechanical systems and processes will always have a physical make-up; no matter how digitally integrated, at some level, shafts have to rotate and gears have to mesh. But is there a way that digital systems could improve on the precision and control of these mechanical processes? Can we upgrade the efficiency of mechanical systems by digitizing the processes for the manufacture and assembly of their components? How can essential data (on performance, uptime, downtime, reliability, availability etc. of these mechanical systems) that are collected for processing, interpretation and use as input information in feedback loops be managed and effectively leveraged? How can we fast-track the development and incorporation of Artificial intelligence in our local industries? Do we have the technical capacity for research and development of these and any other innovations? More importantly, are our young engineers being equipped with the skills required to be at the forefront of these developments? Are they ready to challenge the sufficiency of the school curriculum?
We do not have all the answers, but what we do have is the upcoming third edition of the annual NiMechE-UI Conference, themed: “Into the Future – Exploring the Mechanical – Digital Integration”. More than anything else, we seek enlightenment; on that note, we have invited experts in the field to be present on the 4th of March to provide answers to some of these questions, as well as raise brand new, critical, thought-provoking questions in the process. Our goal for this conference is to generate a wave of progressive conversations that will go some distance in preparing engineering undergraduates at the University of Ibadan for the future of engineering and technology. This conference is scheduled for 9:00 AM on the 4th of March at Trenchard Hall, University of Ibadan.
Also on the 4th of March, between 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM, there will be an exhibition to showcase some of the innovative inventions that UI students have come up with. These inventions include an unmanned ground vehicle, a surveillance robot, an hectacopter, and a quadcopter, among others.
On a lighter note, this Exhibition is your chance to finally meet Oricha John’s infamous rocket up close. Do not blow it.
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