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VDS 200: Makerere’s touch brings glimmer of hope to past glory

By Vision Reporter

Added 18th January 2009 03:00 AM

FROM the word go, Makerere’s team of young undergraduate engineers had no money for their research. Never mind the fact that theirs was the only consortium accepted from the African continent, to join the Vehicle Design Summit (VDS) in Torino, Italy.

FROM the word go, Makerere’s team of young undergraduate engineers had no money for their research. Never mind the fact that theirs was the only consortium accepted from the African continent, to join the Vehicle Design Summit (VDS) in Torino, Italy.

By Vision Reporter

FROM the word go, Makerere’s team of young undergraduate engineers had no money for their research. Never mind the fact that theirs was the only consortium accepted from the African continent, to join the Vehicle Design Summit (VDS) in Torino, Italy.

The Vehicle Design Summit is an initiative to develop an international design team capable of solving global problems in the public domain.

According to Ntambi, the car is being showcased alongside vehicles like Ferrari, Fiat in Torino the world’s most renowned auto museum.

“I was lucky to be a government sponsored student, I used that money for my research,” Ntambi says. His privately sponsored colleagues used their pocket money to fund the research.

Out of the 11 students, only six were able to get air tickets to travel to Italy late last year. Fortunately the Italian government supported their accommodation

The car is a prototype of the first 4-passenger, 200 miles-per-gallon, high-performance cars of the next generation.

The engineering students from 25 universities from all over the world, spent 10 weeks in Italy building the prototype.
The model of the hybrid power vehicle is expected to be ready for commercial production in 2010.

Ntambi, in an exclusive interview with The New Vision said research on the prototype has been ongoing since October 2007. “It is a dream, which has come true.”

Ntambi was flanked by the Chancellor of Makerere University Prof. Mondo Kagonyera and their lecturer Prof. Sandy Tickodri-Togboa— an engineering scientist and lecturer at Makerere.

Prof. Togboa is working with Paul Musasizi, a lecturer at the Faculty of Technology, on this project.

Ntambi, who will be graduating today with a first class degree in Electrical Engineering, said the car was designed by a group of students from 25 leading technology research universities and colleges.

They included MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Germany’s FH Bochum University of Applied Sciences, and Imperial College of London, UK and Delhi College in India. This was with support from several private companies and institutions.

Being from Uganda, the Makerere students had to work hard to prove themselves to the engineers at the Polytechnico Di Torino University.

“Because of the colour of our skin they did not think we had anything to offer, but just after two weeks, we were tasked to handle the ‘heart’ of the vehicle. It was a challenge.

But, we were a committed team,” Ntambi explains. “We had a problem introducing ourselves. Most scientists never knew Makerere University. We had to always repeat ourselves that it is Uganda, in East Africa!” he adds.

After building the vehicle,the scientists at Polytechnico Di Torino, wanted to retain Makerere’s six students.

Prof. Togboa, their mentor, says convincing the scientists at Polytechnico Di Torino to let his students return, was one of the most challenging moments in his lecturing, in this country.”

“These students got big job offers to remain in Italy, but I had to convince them to return and help develop Uganda,” Prof. Togboa says.

This does not sound like a convincing argument, however, the students plan to establish their own general transportation research centre in Uganda.

It is a very expensive project to begin. But if they can get the sh3b support to open phase one of the centre, they expect to use its proceeds to upgrade it into a bigger plant.

Prof. Togboa said they were combing streets and offices for financial support, adding that they want to use their skills to contribute to Uganda.

“The Pearl of Africa should be the first country to benefit from this project,” he says.

Prof. Kagonyera has already bought the idea. “It is high time we developed a valuable mass of scientists in this country. No country can ever develop without paying attention to science.” He has already donated sh3m to the project.

Prof Kagonyera is just one of several people who have contributed about sh10m, to support the students’ research.

He appeals to all Ugandans to stand with his students. “Makerere is doing its best to contribute to the critical mass of scientists. Let every Ugandan join in this cause. It is worth it,” he adds.

The designed car reduces gas emissions and increases the efficiency of fuel consumption. For every 80km, it uses one litre of fuel, compared to the 10 kilometres most saloon cars achieve on average.

“When consuming the little fuel, it charges a battery and the vehicle is run by the battery for the rest of the distance,” Ntambi says. The Vision 200 was built to reverse this gasoline wastage.

Makerere’s team of engineers will upgrade Ugandans’ vehicles, to a level where they will reduce fuel consumption, and emit less smoke.

The team needs a donor vehicle to start with. It will be the starting point for millions of other vehicles countrywide. Are you having one that you can donate?
Prof. Togboa says Uganda can borrow a leaf from China to become a global power in production of technologies. Some decades ago, you could not hear about China.

“Today, the country (China) wants to produce all products used in several countries, worldwide. We can unearth that dream here,” he adds.

It seems it is time for this country to do what it can, with what is has!

If you have any form of support to the project, contact Makerere Vehicle Design Summit Project at Faculty of Technology, Makerere University

VDS 200: Makerere’s touch brings glimmer of hope to past glory

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