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Newly launched UJ Makerspace to mould students into entrepreneurs

Creative engineering, technology, science, and craft students at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) received a massive boost in skills development when the University launched its first Makerspace. The launch took place at the Doornfontein Campus Library and Information Centre on Wednesday, 8 November 2017.

This new laboratory, filled with 3D printing and scanning facilities, robots (assembled by students in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment), and smart computer technologies, was opened to staff and students for the first time. The Makerspace, equipped with five 3D printers or additive manufacturing, is a physical infrastructure – with tools such as AstroPrint or OctoPrint.

Makerspace is an international concept that allows students space to think 3-dimensionally and to share thoughts, ideas, questions and projects around specific topics of interest. The space allows students to work across different disciplines ranging from science, technology, engineering, health sciences, hobbies, crafts and many more. The UJ Makerspace at the Doornfontein Campus Library is the first step into bringing students closer to the University’s drive and vision towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Speaking at the launch, Prof Saurabh Sinha, Executive Dean: Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (FEBE), said, “UJ is interested not only in graduating educated people, but also graduates that will become employers. It is envisaged that the space, and equipment, will grow towards developing implementation capacity for Industry 4.0, including contending with challenges of cyber-security, business and economic models for open innovation, printable implants, and many other elements.”

Prof Sinha stated that the evolution of 3D printing has inspired the University to use technology not just in engineering projects, but also in other academic disciplines such as health sciences, art and design. “We live in an age where people prefer customized products and this requires us to act in that space and change the future of how we do our jobs.”

The UJ Makerspace is run by student tutors and lecturers. Mohamed Sameer Hoosain, a UJ Master’s student, is one of the tutors who created the Makerspace at the Doornfontein Campus. “In South Africa, the Makerspace has been initiated in a number of cities, but not yet in Johannesburg, this will be the first. This Makerspace will allow university students and the public the experience of making something by themselves, they will learn and help each other, gaining deep knowledge in engineering, science and technology. Rather than relying on a fixed curriculum, learning can occur in a much open-minded approach. Let’s not starve our own people from using their imagination to finding solutions to everyday challenges and to bring their ideas to life,” said Hoosain.

Present at the launch were Dr Albert Lysko, Chair: IEEE South Africa Section; Prof Andre Swart, Executive Dean: UJ Faculty of Health Sciences; Ms Jansie Niehaus, Executive Director: National Science Technology Forum (NSTF); Dr Mashinini Madindwa, Head of Department: Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Technology (MIET); Ms Moipone Qhomane-Goliath, Acting Executive Director: Library; Tony Deaton, Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate General, Johannesburg; and Chris du Plessis, Director: Information Resource Center Director (also from the U.S. Consulate General, Johannesburg).

In his address to the esteemed guests, Dr Lysko said, “Congratulations to UJ for this great initiative. This is excellence for the benefit of humanity. This space will help unlock human potential and enable the students to be part of innovation. Let’s enable the future together.”

Ms Niehaus thanked UJ for “bridging the gap between books and technology in its teaching and learning” and said that the space will grow with the NSTF’s continued support.

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