Until she began her studies at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in 2017, Thuso Seome from Lefaragatlhe in Rustenburg didn’t know what makes a car move, let alone understand the inner workings of an engine.
Today Seome (24), a master’s in mechanical engineering candidate will tell you that she even has a favourite engine-an internal combustion engine.
“I fell in love with engines in my first year. The first time I touched an engine I kept wondering how someone could create such a machine. It was so exciting for me. Before coming to UJ, I’d never had an interaction with an engine. I didn’t even understand how a car moves!” she said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the handover ceremony, Seome said for her the decision to even study mechanical engineering was driven by her desire to see growth for the country of her birth, South Africa.
“I chose mechanical engineering because I really wanted to make a difference in South Africa. I didn’t like the fact that South Africa has a lot of minerals, and we don’t manufacture our own stuff. We export raw materials and then import them as finished goods. So, then I applied and got accepted at UJ for mechanical engineering. I remember how excited I was. That was literally my dream. I am the first in my family who’s been to varsity. My parents were happy, and I was happy (I was in Joburg!),” she laughs.
Strengthening motor technology skills in tertiary education
She will be one of the hundreds of mechanical engineering students that will benefit from a partnership that has been formed between UJ and vehicle manufacturer Nissan South Africa. The first fruits of which have been the two-production trial unit Nissan Navara’s’ (2022) and two petrol engines that the latter has gifted the university.
The program is called the Motor Technology Enhancement Program, and will run for a period of three years, from June 2022 to May 2025.
Dr Samuel Gqibani, Head of School: Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Technology who has been instrumental in getting the partnership off the ground said the partnership is an important step in developing the school even further.
“Today we have been relieved that Nissan has come to help us. Our department had older engines and testing benches. This partnership is going to help us in that we’re closer to having state-of-the-art testing facilities where our students will benefit. Firstly, the first years will be able to strip and assemble an engine through workshop practice, the second years to honours students will be able to do laboratory work, which will result in them being able to plot what we call performance curves,” he explained.
Dr Gqibani added that the partnership would also expose young people from previously disadvantaged backgrounds who are students at UJ, to the latest and innovative technologies and engines.
“At the same time, because we know that in South Africa a car’s engine is a big thing, this contribution from Nissan will be beneficial to our previously disadvantaged students to see and touch a motor car as Nissan has given us two cars. Just to be in a Nissan Navara, for a young person that comes from the deep rural Eastern Cape, Limpopo and so forth, to be there, to see it, will have a great impact on the youngsters. This gesture goes a long way. Undergraduate teaching will benefit, postgraduate teaching will benefit, and innovation will benefit. Reimagining the future, as UJ says, will be part of this dream!” he said.
In his remarks, Nissan SA Country Director Karabo Rabotho said the vehicle manufacturer had committed itself to support skills development in tertiary institutions such as UJ.
“For these reasons, we are today responding to the calls by the University of Johannesburg’ School of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Technology to assist with engines that will be used towards the facilitation of practical learning, teaching and research of modern engineering. In addition to these engines, we are providing the university with two production trial units of the latest Nissan Navara towards this cause,” he said.
He added: “This will be followed by close collaboration between our training staff and faculty, to ensure that optimum use and benefit of the asset is realized. Nissan South African is proud to be associated with an institution that is known for excellence in research, innovation and excellence in teaching and learning such as the University of Johannesburg. Therefore, we are looking forward to a long and fruitful relationship that will go beyond this event. Together building and advancing the future of this country through positive contributions to automotive engineering. We are so proud of our contribution to this university,” Rabotho said.