It was a show of innovations geared towards mechanisation of farming processes as the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovations, Dr. Monica Musenero, launched locally made engines today August 19, 2021.

A team of researchers from the African Centre of Excellence for Material science and nanotechnology (MAPRONANO) partnered with artisans from Kevoton Engineering, to design and assemble a diesel engine, the first of its kind in Uganda.

It is a single cylinder 4 stroke engine  with 13 horse power and consumes 1 litre of fuel per hour. The engine is a water-cooled and therefore does not heat up.

The engines are able to run a generator and a water pump to facilitate irrigation on farms. The generator, is single phase and can therefore be used to power home appliances and small workshops.

According to Mr Mubiru Rogers of Kevoton Engineering, work on the engines started in 2017, but they were not able to make much progress until 2019 when they partnered with MAPRONANO ACE. The centre of excellence was then able provide training and technical advice, designing and student attachments to the project.

The Minister commended the MAPRONANO team, led by Prof. John Baptist Kirabira, for various innovations that the team in churning out, which included a sanitizer made in Makerere, solar panel slasher, and a mini tractor. 

Dr. Musenero challenged researchers to have a mindset change and also change the pedagogy to reposition theory to practical works. “We need to teach the students knowing that they are going to design and develop an engine or a brake system,” Dr. Musenero emphasised.  She encouraged innovators to ensure their products do not stay on the selves, saying the biggest role of science and innovation is economical.  The Minister said, for this reason, PRESIDE which she chairs focused on equipping laboratories in universities so as ensure that scientists receive the facilitation that they require. “Research is like a river which needs an outflow and the Ministry is here to provide that outflow,” she said.

She advised the university to prioritise certain areas of research when it comes to grants instead of awarding small grants to different projects which only end up being a drop in the ocean. Dr. Musenero thanked the President for his continued support and belief in science and technology.

The minister advised that the prototypes be refined so that they are genderised to allow women to be able to operate the generator and water pump.

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, called on the minister to support the introduction of an innovation park in Makerere University, saying the park would be able to spinoff companies. Giving an example of Instabul University, the Vice Chancellor said the university has been able to produce 300 companies over the last one year, saying Makerere University should be supported to do the same.  

The Vice chancellor also called for a mindset change, saying that like the Koreans, we too will be able to build our car industry by contributing different components of the vehicle and as such contribute to the economic development of the country. Prof. Nawangwe told of Korea’s journey to car manufacturing. He shared that the Korean had sought help from Japan but Japan had declined to help. They then embarked on building their own engines and today, Korea is one the biggest car manufacturers. With hope and pride, he said scientist in Uganda have the potential to industrialise this industry. He called on senior researchers to mentor the students in order to create sustainability.

Prof. Nawangwe thanked the Minister for government’s continued support especially through PRESIDE. The College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology recently received an electron microscope worth over Shs2 billion from PRESIDE. This equipment will go a long way in growing research and innovation in the country.

“Makerere University is ready to work with the government to change our economy and contribute to its development,” he added.

The vice chancellor also thanked Prof. Kirabira for spearheading innovation at the college.

Also present at the launch was the Director of Research and Graduate Training, Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi, The Deputy Principal of CEDAT, Dr. Venny Nakazibwe, The Dean of the School of Engineering, Dr. Dorothy Okello and the Principal of the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology, Prof. Henry Alinaitwe who thanked the Minister for her love and enthusiasm for science and technology. He too thanked her for the equipment that the college recently received under the PRESIDE project.

The Minister, in concluding remarks informed the public that the Ministry had changed its operations and had brought on board scientists to in think-tanks to help grow the Ministry’s agenda.

  1. The National Engineering Think-tank, which is led by CEDAT’s own Prof. John Baptist Kirabira
  2. Travel Economy Think-tank

This think tank is tasked with mobility and it is headed by Eng. Paul Isaac Musasizi

  • Beauty and Apparel Think-tank
  • Digital Economy Thinnk-tank
  • Agro Economy Think-tank, which will deal with industrial value chain.

She said these think tanks will put scientists at the centre of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. Dr. Musenero advised that for everything we set out to do, we must be purposeful, work together and forget competition among universities or individual. She called for Obuntu and have the right mindset and ideology.

She tasked the Chairperson of the travel economy think-tank, Eng. Musasizi to draft a proposal on how the engine prototype can be improved and commercialised.   

OTHER INNOVATIONS

Solar Panel Slasher

The slasher uses solar and has a rechargeable battery of 75 wats. It can be used by farmers to cut shrubs as well as domestic use in slashing compounds. Away from farming, it can be used to run small appliances and light up a house. Its portable machine and easy to maintain.

Mini Tractor

This was designed to make it easy for farmers that can not afford heavy duty tractors. It runs on petrol. One litre of petrol can run the tractor for 3 hours making it cheap to maintain. In its state, it has a plough and speed planter which can be attached to it.

The innovators plan to improve it to have other garden tools to it, such as spray pumps, and a weeder. The tractor will go a long way in mechanizing farming.

Story by Betty Kyakuwa

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Minister Unveils Locally-Made Diesel Engine