Change the world

School of Engineering

On Friday, 24 August, the Mechatronics students assembled for an event that was unprecedented in the department – a Mechatronics Soccer Day. The goal of the event was to encourage team-work, and to form social connections between all members of the department.

Our Eco-Car Team were again crowned Champions of the 2018 Shell Eco-Marathon: South Africa (SEM: SA) in their category this last weekend in blisteringly hot conditions at the Zwartkops Raceway in Mid-Rand, Gauteng. This year’s event saw a record entry of 21 competitors from 4 different African countries, including International University entrants from Nigeria, Botswana and Namibia.
The overall aim is to enable disabled people in a wheelchair to pick up different objects like smartphones, wallets, etc. from the ground. The robotic arm should be mounted on the back of an electric wheelchair and be controlled with the joystick, which is already used for the driving.

Completed Masters Students, Graduated in 2016:

Johan Jordaan, 2016, The Design, Management and Testing of a Solar Vehicle's Energy Strategy, (MEng Mechatronics, Supervisor) Alexander Macfarlane, 2016, Modular Electric Automatic Guided Vehicle Suspension-Drive Unit, (MEng Mechatronics, Supervisor) Stuart Church, 2016, Energy Management System for the Diagnosis and Control of an Automatic Guided Vehicle (MEng Mechatronics, Supervisor)

The Southern Africa Association for the Advancement of Science (S2A3) Masters Medal (Bronze Medal) serves to commend outstanding South African research students graduating at the Masters level in a scientific discipline. These medals are awarded annually to one candidate selected by each South African university.
In 2016 Alexander Macfarlane received the Best Master Dissertation within the Faculty.

28 March 2017 saw the first South African Altair Technology Conference taking place at River Meadow Manor in Irene, Gauteng. When we started, we were not sure of what to expect with regard to attendance since was our first event. We would read with envy of Altair ATCx events in other countries with sizeable numbers. Little did we know! We had to finally close our registration page the week before, when we were reaching close to 80 registrations, our maximum for the venue!

Our one day event brought together engineers and designers from several industries to discuss the latest technology trends and developments around simulation-driven design and manufacturing in South Africa.


IGEMS visit

Altair Visit & Demo

Wela Launch
The Women in Engineering Leadership Association (WELA) held its annual launch on 24 February 2017 in the Auditorium in the New Engineering Building.
The South African satellite industry is taking yet another step forward as a player in the international arena with the launch of two South African built nanosatellites from Cape Canaveral in Florida within the next few days.
Martin Badenhorst’s presentation on his research into the Design, Optimization and Manufacture of a Carbon Composite Wheel for the NMMU Eco-Car has been accepted for presentation in the 2017 Altair Technical Conference: Europe in the main Technical Track aspect of the Conference – this is to be held from June 26th - 28th in Frankenthal, Germany.
Giving Back

Masters in Mechatronics graduate Goodness Onwuka (above) from Nigeria not only obtained his qualification cum laude, but also volunteered his time to mentor first-year students at the NMMU Student Academic Development Unit. Goodness is a lifetime scholar who would like to continue his qualification till doctoral level. His passion however lies in giving back to his community. Goodness would like to in future establish an NGO which specialises in distributing bicycles to students in rural communities who walk long distances to get to school.

In 2010, while working as a process engi-neer in China, Heinrich contracted a bac-terial infection which resulted in an ab-scess pressing up against his spinal cord.

The pressure damaged his spinal cord and left him paralysed from the neck down, a C6 quadriplegic.

In 2013 Heinrich registered to study. “The first year was the hardest but my experi-ence at NMMU has been great. Young, old and across all races, Viking and I were accepted and able to mingle very well.”

Viking, his service dog has helped him achieved his Diploma. “He deserves to graduate with me, he was present in all my classes,” said Heinrich, 45.

Heinrich who is currently completing his BTech Industrial Engineering praises the Industrial department for all the support he receives from Dr Lourens and the team.

The fuel efficient Eco-Car which has been designed to travel nearly 300km on just one litre of fuel was recently on display at the Knysna Motor show.

“The objective of the Eco-Car project is to challenge students to manufacture and ultra lightweight car to maximise fuel efficiency and determine how far the vehicle can travel on a litre of fuel” said Mechanical Engineering Clive Hands.

A huge feather in the teams cap was an invitation to the flagship Shell Eco-Marathon event in London in June this year but Clive has said that the team has not been able to raise the R600 000 it would need to get there.

Should the team participate, they will compete in the prototype class, where a conventional petrol engine has been modified to accept a programmable fuel injec-tion unit to minimise fuel usage.

The Shell Eco Marathon is an established event world-wide with competitions in America, Asia, Europe and Africa.

Open Day 2016

The School of Engineering would like to thank all those who exhibited at Open Day 2016 or availed their services and expertise. The event was a resounding success with almost 7000 visitors to the PE and George events.

At this year’s Open Day the Marketing Department recorded learners and parents from as far as Mtata, George, Plettenberg Bay, Humansdorp, Patensie, Pretoria, Vereeniging and East London to name but a few. The recorded numbers of school groups and individual walk-ins.

This event is not possible without the dedication, professionalism and knowledge of the exhibitors who annually go the extra mile in contributing to the overall success of the event.

Our Prof who builds flying machines! Professor Russel Phillips, a Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at NMMU, received two awards at the annual Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Convention held last weekend in Mosselbay.

The Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) donated on 18 May two high-tech turbodiesel engines to Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Ford Engine Research Unit (FERU) – and, in a surprise announcement, also pledged to donate a Ford Ranger vehicle to the university.

GENERAL Motors South Africa has renewed a partnership deal with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s mechatronics department, aimed at ensuring continued skills development for motor manufacturing in Port Elizabeth.

MEETING NEEDS: Mechatronics engineering graduate Nathan Kops, left, is now a full-time employee at GMSA. Inspecting one of the robotic systems in the Struandale assembly plant with him is automation technician Rais Salie.
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University launched its brand new Bitumen Laboratory on Thursday , 21 April 2016. Students received hands-on experience of the latest equipment and testing methods, used in road construction and other fields.  

The NMMU Eco—Car Team were thrilled to host VWSA MD, Thomas Schaefer and NMBBC, Kevin Hustler at the Eco-Car Lab on 16 May 2016.

The NMMU Science Students Association arranged a Science outing for the pupils from Masifunde High School from Walmer - we showed the Eco-Car off to the guys, and explained the hole design process to a very enthusiastic group of hopefully future engineers and scientists...

The Knysna motor show held on Sunday May 1, 2016 turned out to be a real blockbuster event and beating all expectations. The motor show was held in perfect weather with the most fantastic display of cars and motorcycles, complemented with new cars and trade related stalls. The display ranged from Vintage and Veteran cars, classic sports cars, super cars, classic and vintage motorcycles . A continuous stream of positive comments were received from participants as well as the public .
NMMU’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) in Action’s Programme has been providing extra practical science sessions for Grade 10 to 12 learners from Northern Areas schools, to help learners make up for lost time.
The Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering (Mechanical): Dreyer Bernard

MEng Mechatronics graduates from left - Johan Jordaan; Alex Macfarlane (Cum Laude), Stuart Church (Cum Laude) and Prof Theo van Niekerk (Supervisor for all three students). Johan currently works at Volkswagen’s Product Engineering division; Alex is currently pursuing a PhD in Mechatronics whilst working at NMMU; Stuart is currently working at Bosch in Reutlingen, Germany. All three students were financially supported by the VWSA-DAAD International Chair in Automotive Engineering in pursuing their MEng Degrees.

The Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Information Technology: School of Engineering, graduation ceremony took place Friday, 15 April 2016 at 09:30 in the Vodacom NMMU Indoor Sport Centre, South Campus, Summerstrand.

IN a major boost to the developing ocean economy in South Africa, merSETA is to provide R30 million over the next three years to NMMU to, among others, establish a Bachelor of Engineering Technology in Marine Engineering degree.

The Hot Rock™ system allows energy collected during the day to be stored for later conversion to electricity at a 1 to 5kW scale. The system comprises a parabolic trough, a rock bed and a heat engine. Solar thermal energy is collected using the trough and stored in the rock bed. The heat can then be converted to electricity using a heat engine.

Existing manufacturers of contact lenses for medical and cosmetic purposes currently use the average cornea profile of Caucasian users as a standard shape. However, the corneas of African people, particularly, are shaped differently to those of Caucasian people. Contact lenses which do not have the correct shape to match that of the user can cause ulceration of the membranes of the eye and also encourage bacterial infection. Prof Khaled Abou-El-Hossein, his team of postgraduates and collaborators at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, have been able to optimise the manufacturing process for contact lenses better suited for the African cornea profile, using specialised equipment.

NMMU took part in the inaugural “Innovation Bridge” hosted and arranged by the Department of Science and Technology in February 2015 in Pretoria. A ‘technology matchmaking showcase’, the event aimed at creating links between technology developers such as universities and science councils, and investors. The programme included technology exhibitions and demonstrations, policy dialogues and plenary discussions, training sessions and one-on-one meeting opportunities.

CONSTANT innovation supported by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) has ensured the success of Port Elizabeth-based Welfit Oddy – one of the only specialist steel tank container manufacturers in the world outside of China.

COMPANIES wanting to reduce the volume of liquid effluent safely could benefit from trials with concentrated sunlight being conducted in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Working with wind

A MECHANICAL Engineering workshop piled with blade samples gives testimony to the work being done at NMMU in developing new designs for small-size wind turbine blades.

OFF-GRID communities around South Africa and the rest of the continent can have their lives transformed in hours through street lighting, surveillance and Internet connectivity.

ONE of the biggest and most diverse fleets of working electric vehicles in South Africa provides a showcase of developments in the industry.

PERHAPS the biggest challenge facing renewable energy is energy storage when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining.

THE uYilo battery testing laboratory recently received certification from the SANAS (South African National Accreditation System).

AN OPPORTUNITY for the Eastern Cape to become the centre of production of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) for use in factories is an increasing possibility.

SCHOOL leavers wanting to enter the motor industry as engineers are obtaining world class education in the Eastern Cape.

CONSTANT innovation supported by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) has ensured the success of Port Elizabeth-based Welfit Oddy – one of the only specialist steel tank container manufacturers in the world outside of China.

Off-grid communities in South Africa and Africa can have their lives transformed in hours through street lighting, surveillance and Internet connectivity.

NELSON Mandela Metropolitan University engineering students are hard-wired to solve problems.

The unlocking of Africa’s blue economy for sustainable ocean development offers Nelson Mandela Bay new growth areas, including that of education and training, writes Ed Richardson.

SKILLS required to ensure that Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) continues to produce globally competitive cars are being honed and shaped in a collaborative partnership between the auto maker and NMMU.

Over 400 small engineering and manufacturing companies in the Eastern Cape have been helped to be more competitive by the eNtsa engineering technology station at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).

NELSON Mandela Metropolitan University is positioning itself as an African centre for the training of marine engineers.

A PARTNERSHIP between business, government and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) is helping to meet the shortage of certified welders in South Africa.

SOLID scientific study and innovation in Nelson Mandela Bay are behind a developed welding and repair process that is saving industry billions of rand.

ENTREPRENEURS, engineers, technical and marketing leaders from at least 140 Port Elizabeth-based companies are involved in a variety of projects run under the auspices of the Advanced Mechatronic Technology Centre at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).

SOLAR-charged SHARED ELECTRIC BIKE FLEET.... Hoten Parmar (left), deputy director of the national uYilo eMobility Programme, based at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, gives mechatronics student intern (Unathi Mabi) a demonstration on how to use the new shared fleet of solar charged electric bikes (eBike) at NMMU.


STUDENTS and staff at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University can cut out the long walk between the university's North and South campuses, by hopping onto a shared solar-charged e-bike.

The South African Institute of Civil Engineering (SAICE), together with the Civil Engineering department at NMMU recently launched a "Student Chapter."The SAICE Student Chapter was established at NMMU to provide Civil Engineering students with the opportunity to become engaged with the world of Civil Engineering and to assist them with information relevant to their career path. Through their activities students will be able to interact with the Civil Engineering community thus making the transition from being a student to the work environment an easier one.

SAICE represents the interests of the Civil Engineering community in South Africa and currently has over 10000 members.

We look forward to seeing our young Civil Engineers students taking full advantage of these opportunities to develop their careers

Mechanical Engineering senior lecturer Dr Russell Phillips has turned a lifelong passion for both aviation and invention into a light aircraft. His Whisper X recently graced the cover of popular aviation magazine SA Flyer. This is the second aircraft to be designed and built by Russell, 49, who also has several noteworthy inventions in the renewable energy field, including the “twerly”, a “green” street light completely powered by wind and solar energy, which is being commercialised. He is also patenting a new type of wind turbine with segmented blades for more efficient wind harvesting.

Russell’s first aircraft was the Whisper motor glider in 2004. Both planes are sold as “kits” which flying enthusiasts can purchase to put together themselves. “Other people watch TV, I build things, fix things and invent things,” says Russell, who built most of the Whisper X in the garage of his Walmer home. “I’m an inventor during the day and after hours.”

Russell, who has been flying since he was in standard eight (Grade 10) built his first plane in 1984, when he was a second year student at the former Port Elizabeth Technikon. “I’ve owned 35 aeroplanes and built more than half of them. Some were kits, some were planes I restored.” It was only a matter of time before this self-proclaimed “aviation fanatic” built his own.

“The Whisper X is not unique or aero-dynamically different. It’s a combination of all the features that I like in planes that I’m familiar with.”The plane project has consumed most of his free time since 2008, but he has also been able to bring certain aspects into the classroom. “One of the subjects I teach is CAD (Computer-Aided Design) and I often bring in components [of the plane] to show students it’s not just a page in a book, but a real part in an aeroplane ... I don’t just teach, I do – and I believe this helps my teaching,” says Russell, who has won several NMMU teaching awards over the years. The plane is a composite (made from glass fibre-reinforced plastics) and students are able to use aspects of the structural design process as classroom examples. This exposure to composites helped in establishing the university’s first composites lab, which was used to produce the university’s unique solar car last year. “Airbus and Boeing are using more and more composite parts, with each new model that comes out. This will be the material of choice for high tech manufacturers in the future.”

The Whisper X is a similar design to the non-composite RV, which is the most popular “home built” in the world with over 8 000 flying worldwide, but Russell has designed his aircraft to outrun the slower RV, with a top speed of over 300km/h. Instead of the traditional “round gauges” in the cockpit to show speed and altitude, there is place for an iPad, which takes care of all the electronics at the touch of a screen. “There is less wiring, less complexity and less expense,” says Russell. “Most airliners today also have glass cockpits.”

Throughout the building process, the Whisper X was inspected and approved – but the first flight in his creation was still “terrifying”. “It’s a high performance, very fast aeroplane. If anything had gone wrong, it could have been fatal hence every precaution was taken”, says Russell, who is also a test pilot. NW

If you’ve noticed the variety and number of strange contraptions on the roof increasing then your eyesight is not deceiving you. The EBEIT Wind Energy Research Group (WERG) is hard at work with a number of experiments to do with harvesting of various renewable energies. The WERG group now has 4 interns working fulltime on the projects and big things are planned for 2013. Some of the main projects for 2013 are:

  • Heating of air using parabolic collectors and transferring this heat to a bed of rocks insulated within a vacuum (It is hoped to be able to store heat for a few days and use as required. Great for those rainy days!)
  • Refining our Solar Tracker (By tracking the sun with your solar panels you can gain up to 40% more energy per day)
  • Developing a cost effective, rugged solar cooker (We hope to offer you a solar cooked boerewors roll before the end of the year and/or a solar heated cup of coffee!)
  • Refining and commercializing our “green street light”. eNTsa is hard at work on this.
  • Developing the NMMU patented variable geometry wind turbine blade which hopefully will show improved daily energy yields over current designs. Hold thumbs!
  • Installation of wind turbine / solar panel power at a number of local schools.

Most of the projects are made possible by funding sourced through the Merseta / AIDC initiatives run by Karl du Preez and his dynamic team.

So if you’re at all interested in saving the planet (and your pocket) and have an interest in one or more of these exciting new green technologies pop in and pay us a visit at the Renewable Energy Lab in the E Block.

NMMU Racing has reached a key milestone in their “Green Technology” project by securing an entry into the prestigious 2013 “Formula Student Electric” competition.

The German Formula Student competition, held each year in the first week in August at the Hockenheim Formula One circuit, caters for both combustion and electric racing cars, and after the phenomenal success of their first car combustion car “DibaOne” in 2011, NMMU Racing has returned with an all-new Green Technology electric racing car, dubbed “DibaTwo GT”.

To successfully enter the competition, teams from around the world undergo a rigorous online registration process consisting of a quiz that challenges both the team’s technical knowledge, and understanding of competition rules. Over 100 teams competed for only 40 positions, and NMMU Racing made history once again, by being to first South African team to gain entry into this alternative-energy racing formula.

DibaTwo GT, is a giant leap forward from DibaOne, and includes brand new technologies such as 100KW, 450Nm Brushless-DC electric motor powered by Lithium Polymer batteries, targeting a 0-100Km/h acceleration of under 4.7seconds! Another new development is a unique aerodynamic package incorporating front and rear wings, and a Formula One style under-body diffuser to increase cornering down-force.

The highly-motivated NMMU Racing team, consisting of mechanical and electrical engineering students, along with business and marketing students, plans to begin testing of DibaTwo GT within the next two months

Denel Conference

Dr Karl van der Merwe (left), Mr Jaco Snyders (Centre) and Mr Howard Theunissen (right) attended the Denel conference in Johannesburg to present research related to two new De­nel projects, namely an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and the development of a South African Regional Aircraft (SARA).

This initiative is to conduct research into the possible manufac­turing of these products using the lean philosophy and principles.

New appointment

Dr Mgangira holds a BSc degree in Civil Engineering, MSc in En­gineering and earned his Doctor­ate at Ruhr-Universitat Bochum in Germany in 1992, with a focus in Geotechnical Engineering.


Dr Mgangira’s career has mostly been with academic and re­search institutions. For more than 11 years he lectured at the University of Malawi. During this time he held the positions of HOD Civil Engineering, Dean of Faculty of Engineering and Vice Principal at the Polytechnic, a constituent college of the Univer­sity of Malawi. In 1997 he took up a senior lec­turer position at the then PE Tecknikon in the Civil Engineer­ing department and later got pro­moted to Principal Lecturer.


Since 2005 he has been working for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). He is currently a Principal researcher within the Pavement Design and Construction research group of the Built Environment Unit. His areas of interest are Transport Geotechnics with a focus on geo-material characterisation and En­gineering Education. He has published over 25 re­search papers including journal articles. As adjunct Professor he will collaborate in the delivery of NMMU civil engineering academ­ic programmes and strengthen research activities within the De­partment



Prof Danie Hattingh (left) and Prof Hannalie Lombard (right) together with Dr Carlo van Zyl (center) who received his Doctorate in Philosophy in Mechanical Engineer­ing

Dr Ian Wedderburn received his Doctorate in Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering. Ian’s thesis not only landed him a Doctorate in Philosophy degree but also a R1 million re­search contract with NMMU and Eskom.

The thesis, entitled “A Creep Sample retrieval technique and friction weld site repair proce­dure”, explores cost effective and efficient procedures to monitor creep loaded high tem­perature and pressure components in power stations.

The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) in collaboration with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) launched the Uyilo E-Mobility Programme, on the 13th of March 2013. This programme seeks to speed up the development of new technologies to create a sustainable infrastructure for the use of the electric vehicles through South Africa.

Awareness was created for the public with the programme launch that took place the 12th of March 2013. The pre-launch consisted of experiential stops at the Greenacres shopping mall, Govan Mbeki taxi rank, Sasol filling station in Summerstrand and at NMMU North Campus cafeteria. The public had the opportunity to view the cars and give their input regarding the new exciting programme. At the NMMU North campus, the student hype was incredible. As the university promotes an environment of technology transfer and innovation the programme was well received by the students, academics and researchers of the institution. 

The Uyilo E-Mobility Programme hosted by NMMU and supported by several vehicle manufacturers, such as BMW and Nissan. Furthermore, NMMU provides a live testing facility which enables research activities to be undertaken, while private sector partners would provide market experience and TIA would provide funding.

Various power services are involved in this programme to encourage research and development of the technology and infrastructures to support both electric and hybrid vehicles. The electric vehicles will be powered by electricity whereas the hybrid vehicles will be powered by the use of two or more distinct power sources.

It is part of TIA’s mandate to promote research and technological innovation within the country and Higher Education Institutions. For this reason the NMMU technology station, eNtsa, was selected to host this project due to their ability to deliver projects on time, for their skills and expertise within the group reflected by past projects.  

It is foreseen that the electric vehicle inevitable influence the face of the automotive industry and positively influence the investment within the South African economy and in turn challenge the perception of transportation.