For theoretical training from tertiary institutions to be effective, it must be accompanied by work experience opportunities, drive automation company SEW-Eurodrive reports. This is embodied in its engineering student design competition, the PneuDrive Challenge, which it cosponsors with mechanical valves provider Pneumax.
The company, which has been running the competition since 2008, believes in providing structured learning opportunities for students to develop innovative capacity and the business thinking skills that are required to remain competitive, particularly in the engineering industry.
“The competition provides bridging platforms that accelerate the practical learning required for the engineering industry, including mechanical, electronic and mechatronic engineering,” it notes.
The theme for this year’s competition is green warehousing logistics. The competition will take place between February and November, at the University of Johannesburg, Tshwane University of Technology, the University of the Witwatersrand, Stellenbosch University and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Students have to identify and analyse specific problems relating to retrieval, conveying, placement, packing, palletising and loading within a warehouse environment. Students have to be able to demonstrate how their designs could improve the identified problems, as well as how they have taken the environment into consideration.
The automation of industries and the growth of economies that require services and design solutions call for people that are entering the economy to have more than academic competence – this need is even more exaggerated in the engineering sector.
While universities and further education and training colleges play the role of developing the academic skills of students, companies need to provide opportunities that will allow the students to practise their skills and knowledge on a business level.
PneuDrive Challenge learning programme manager Andrew Rose says that the competition is reviewed every year to ensure that it is relevant to current engineering industry needs. “An important business and training objective each year is to revisit the efficacy of both the learning path and the needs of business. We stay mindful of the need to bring together as efficiently as possible engineering theory, the latest technology in drive engineering and pneumatics, and business reality.
“At the same time, learning interactions need to be planned that not only build the confidence of students to interact with product literature and real-life industry problems, but also guide them along a path that is in reality quite complex and cannot be taught through any one faculty or subject,” he explains.
The engineering competition designs a learning experience that aims to engage the students and keep them interested in the science of engineering. It also provides them with relevant industry information in an interesting and encouraging manner to support them in growing their engineering knowledge.