Imagine being able to tour a mine shaft without leaving your room or exploring the intricacies of the human heart in life size, all without the goriness of a cadaver.
These are some of the technologies on display at the recent launch of the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) 4IR Experience Lab which took place on Friday, 24 February 2023. The 4IR Experience Lab is the latest addition to the ongoing collaboration between Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management and automation, and UJ. Schneider Electric has a global presence, with operations in over 100 countries. The two organisations first worked together in 2018 on a project in Gwakwani, a village in northern Limpopo, where energy was brought to the people via alternative power solutions, specifically solar power.
The 4IR Experience Lab, a continuation of this collaboration, aims to provide students with access to various 4IR technologies. These technologies range from using virtual reality to learn more about mining to using cutting-edge technology to protect wild animals in the vast wilderness of the country. Students are expected to learn skills such as building these technologies, maintaining them, and using them for on-the-job training.
Speaking at the launch of the Lab, UJ’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal Designate, Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi highlighted UJ’s commitment to exploring the opportunities that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) provides by citing examples such as 3D printed houses and UJ’s brand new electric buses.
He added, however, that in order to capitalise on the benefits of these technologies, the approach must be human-centered: “The launch of this lab is important for facilitating the understanding of 4IR technologies in practice. My request is that, as we consume and embrace technology, we do so with humanity in mind. We need to find empowerment in progress and use these tools to build more sustainable frameworks. This, I would argue, is the real future of the 4IR,” Prof Mpedi said.
Zanelle Dalglish, Schneider Electric’s Global Leader: Training & Education Affairs said this partnership with UJ fulfills their mandate to enable the access to education for the youth and all generations.
“UJ is a strategic partner for us already since 2016 when we established them in our French-South Africa Schneider Electric Education Centred Network. The beauty of our partnership with UJ focuses on the fact that UJ is comprehensive university, working across levels in the fields of energy. This enables us to showcase the various technologies we have at Schneider Electric, and bringing our technology. This partnership also allows us to bring our technology into academia as well,” she said.
Professor Daniel Mashao, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment said this partnership is important because it brings the curriculum offered to students, to life: “This gives students access to what is taking place, what can be done for real [in industry]. Students can also explore the virtual world without being constrained by lectures. It clarifies what 4IR is. “It’s the ability to use technology in the virtual world and have it manifest in the real world,” he explained.
Experience the 4IR Lab here: