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Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Information Technology


Henk de Jager

30 June 2009



Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Information Technology

Dear Colleagues

Thank you for taking the time to read this communiqué. I would also like to use this opportunity to encourage you to respond on matters mentioned or any other relevant contributions which might assist us as a team to take the Faculty forward. I am confident that we are firmly focused on our vision and am grateful for the commitment and team spirit in the Faculty.

Looking at staff and students’ personal academic achievements and growth from term to term, it indicates that the Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Information Technology are indeed turning challenges into achievements.

^ On staffing matters, we were successful in filling a number of vacant positions. I would like to welcome Prof Khaled Abou-El-Hossein, appointed as Associate Professor in the Department of Mechatronics and Dr William Phipps, appointed as Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering. Furthermore, a special word of welcome to Proffs Paula Kotze, Alta van der Merwe, and Marlien Herselman, from Meraka Institute, who were appointed as Adjunct Professors in the School of ICT, effective from 1 June 2009 for a period of 5 years. All three these colleagues are eminent rated researchers in their respective fields and through this partnership, bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Faculty.

A number of our staff members were appointed to internal and external bodies, including Dr Franco Geminiani who was appointed as a Technical Expert for the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS), relative to the certification of SANS 613; Prof John Smallwood was appointed to the Council of Built Environment Project Advisory Panel; Sarel Schoombie as Vice-Chairperson of the Eastern Cape Branch of the South African Institute for Electrical Engineers and as a member of the Academic Board of the Midlands FET College; Prof Igor Gorlach as the GMSA Chair in Mechatronics; and Prof Annelize Els-Botes as Director of the newly established Friction Processing Research Institute.

Furthermore, Renaldo Rheeder received an “All-time Academy Dedication Award” on 1 April from CISCO International. The award is conferred for great Academy supervision; commitment to Academy growth; participation at Academy events; being a role model to other instructors; and communication with Netacad Management.

Sincere congratulations go to the following staff members who graduated in their individual fields at the recent graduation ceremonies, namely, ^ Lusinda Lindsay (B Tech); Dr Russell Phillips (D Tech) and Prof Kobus van Wyk (DPhil).

Some of the achievements in the area of research include Prof Danie Hattingh and his team, who secured a R3 million contract research project for Eskom, supported by THRIP and ACTS. Furthermore, the suggested name change of IAMER has been approved, which will from now be known as the Friction Processing Research Institute (FPRI). The research and development work on Housing Development by Prof Kobus van Wyk and his team, has recently been identified by university management as one of the flagship projects at NMMU that contributes to poverty alleviation. Dr Kerry-Lynn Thomson received the “Best Paper Award” at an International Conference recently held in Las Vegas. Furthermore, Darelle van Greunen and her team secured a contract research project to conduct a global research study for the International Council for Information Technology in Government Administration. Dr Ray Harris has been invited by the organisers of the International PCO’ 2010 Conference, to organise and chair a special session in his field of expertise. We have also hosted international visitors from a number of universities which included visitors from the University of Reutlingen, University of Michigan, and the University of Plymouth.

Congratulations to the staff members who have been elected as the “^ Researcher of the Year” and “Emerging Researcher of the Year” (2008) in the Faculty and respective Schools. (The detailed list is attached as Annexure A). A special word of congratulations to Prof John Smallwood, Faculty Researcher of the Year, and Mariana Gerber, Faculty Emerging Researcher of the Year.

The ^ Teacher of the Year and Emerging Teacher of the Year (2008) in the Faculty and respective Schools have also been announced recently. (The detailed list is attached as Annexure A). A special word of congratulations to Karl du Preez, Faculty Teacher of the Year and Dr Kerry-Lynn Thomas, Faculty Emerging Teacher of the Year.

Pauline Sepeng, Technician in the School of Built Environment and Avis Meyer, Secretary in Construction Management recently resigned to take up positions elsewhere. We would like to thank both of them for their valuable contributions to the Faculty and wish them all of the best in their future careers.

On student matters, 487 students graduated during the April graduations, including the first graduates in the BEng Mechatronics programme. A large number of students received merit and special awards at the three Merit Award Functions held recently. Furthermore, our students continued during this term with their achievements of which some include Daniel Bulbring, who received the Council Award for the Best Master’s Degree in Technology by dissertation in the SET category at NMMU in 2008, and Lindsay Botha who received the Council Award for the Best Diploma Performance at NMMU in 2008. Furthermore, Andre Labuschagne was one of the top three students at the National Cisco NetRiders Competition and will compete in the International NetRiders Competition, against countries like Greece, Egypt, Hungary, France, Switzerland, Nigeria, Kenya, Italy and Austria. Timothy Light and Wesley Estment from the Mobile Robotics–NMMU Team won the National World Skills Mobile Robotic SA Competition, hosted by Festo Didactics, and will now represent SA in Canada during November this year.

You have read in the Talk@NMMU about the agreement between NMMU, INTEGCOMM & EADS, which entails a multi-million rand ^ TETRA Training Academy and Research Centre recently established in the School of ICT, the first of its kind at a university in the world. This partnership will ensure state-of-the-art equipment in the field of electronic communication and networks, which will be used for training of external employees of the partners, but also for staff and student training. Furthermore, Volkswagen South Africa has formally extended their partnership with NMMU by at least another two years till 2012. The R1.3 million boost for the International Chair in Automotive Engineering, established at the university in 2006 to strengthen research and training in this field, also received the continued support of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

The SACQSP / HEQC Accreditation visit for the programmes in the Department of Building and Quantity Surveying took place on 18 and 19 June 2009. The Panel recommended full unconditional accreditation. Well done to Derick Vosloo, Prof Fanie Buys and their team on this outstanding achievement!

A very successful faculty and university “2009 Open Day” showed once again the commitment and dedication of our staff and students, resulting in two schools excelling in the following categories, namely the School of ICT who was the runner up for the most Visual Appealing Stall, and the School of Engineering who was the runner up for the Most Interactive Stall.

Our Faculty Community Engagement projects are well underway. The NMMU is grateful for the sponsorship from The South African Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) to the value of R3, 5 million over a three year period for the Science Technology Engineering and Related Management Fields Pipeline Project (STEM) to be established in the School of Engineering at NMMU. The focus of this project is to promote the development of human capital and capacity building geared towards SET fields. The emphasis will fall on empowering selected school learners within the various Engineering Disciplines in order to increase the quality and quantity of engineers in South Africa. This project is ideally positioned to support Vision 2020 of NMMU. In addition, the UCL project, supported by the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Faculty management, has been implemented at two local schools, Masibambane Senior Secondary School and Loyiso High School. The project involves a group of NMMU students offering tutoring sessions to schools in the Nelson Mandela Bay townships with the aim of improving the grade 12 pass rate of the schools.

The Faculty Board recently approved that the HCert in ICT and the Bachelor in Housing Development be offered at the ^ Missionvale Campus from 2010. Adding the new SANRAL-Stem Laboratory allows the Faculty to complement the vision of the campus as a Centre for Science, Technology and Education.

Sadly, we have lost one of our students, Mvuyisi Mditshwa, a 3rd year IT student, who recently passed away. The Faculty staff and students extend our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

^ In conclusion, some of you will take a well deserved break during the July recess. However a number of activities will continue on campus, some of which are the Automotive Experiential Career Development Programme (Two-Week Engineering Winter School) which started on 29 June with 60 learners from 18 schools. The purpose of the Winter School is to expose these learners to various engineering disciplines with a specific focus on the Automotive Industry. Furthermore, the Department of Construction Management will host the TG59 People in Construction Conference (In Association with the CIDB) to be held in Port Elizabeth, from 12 - 14 July 2009. Teachers Training will also be offered during July by the School of ICT to the Department of Education.

Coming to the end of such a packed term with a long list of achievements and activities, including the ones not even listed, is extremely rewarding, knowing this comes from the hard work and commitment from each and every staff member (and students) in the Faculty! We still have a precipitous road ahead, but I am confident that the momentum we’ve built over the past three years is so solid, that the obstacles coming our way will be transformed into challenges and opportunities. We can, with our strengths, facilities, intellectual resources, established partnerships and unique opportunities, go a long way to ensure that we are locally relevant, sustainable, nationally pre-eminent and globally competitive.

See you next term and remember to spend some quality time with your family and loved ones!

Regards/Groete/Ngomkhulu Umbuliso!




School of Engineering  

  • Mr K du Preez - Teacher of the Year                       

  • Mr A Marks – Emerging Teacher of the Year         


School of ICT

  • Mrs A du Plessis - Teacher of the Year                       

  • Dr K Thomson – Emerging Teacher of the Year         

School of Built Environment

  • Mr R Cumberlege - Teacher of the Year                       

  • Mr J Slabber – Emerging Teacher of the Year         



School of Engineering  

  • Prof. Danie Hattingh - Researcher of the Year                       

  • Dr Russell Phillips - Emerging Researcher of the Year         


School of ICT

  • Prof. Rossouw von Solms - Researcher of the Year                        

  • Mrs Mariana Gerber - Emerging Researcher of the Year          

School of Built Environment

  • Prof. John Smallwood - Researcher of the Year                         

  • Prof. Kobus van Wyk - Emerging Researcher of the Year        

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