Aspiring Engineer aims to improve Mine Safety In SA

Muhammed Hassen from Greenside High School in Johannesburg has big dreams of improving the safety standards in South African mines, after scooping a number of awards at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists virtual awards.

Hassen, currently in Grade 11, won a gold medal at the virtual awards ceremony held in December 2020. His prizes included a partial scholarship from Wits University’s Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, a special award for innovation in information technology from the South African Institution of Civil Engineering’s IT Division, a laptop from Babcock and the Meiring Naudé Award for the most inspiring project.

Eskom General Manager of Risk and Sustainability, Andrew Etzinger, said: “Eskom is very proud to be the main sponsor of the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists over many years. The Eskom Expo is one of the flagship CSI initiatives supported by Eskom. It is at times like these, that we see the value of our investment in STEMI education, unearthing such talented innovators in our country. During lockdown, many activities ceased to exist, however, the Eskom Expo continued to deliver a valuable service to our education system to ensure that we continue the momentum of developing much needed scientists and engineers for our country. Even through the lockdown, it’s reassuring to see inventions like that of Muhammed Hassen’s, which, with the right support, can be a game changer in mine safety”.

Hassen’s research project, “ThembaBot 5 – Mine Surveying Robot”, includes an unassuming, ergonomic and cost-effective robot to assist mine surveyors in conducting their tests to see whether mines are safe for miners. Hassen said the addition of a GPS tracking device is planned as well as the design of a visual interface to monitor all systems on a single screen, allowing for more effective risk mitigation.

“I have always been interested in technology and how it can make life easier. When I first started with robotics, South Africa had one of the biggest mining accidents. I realised that robotics could be used in mining to make it safer. So I began researching safety in mines and this brought about some of the first ThembaBot mine surveying ideas,” said Hassen.

“I would really like to go into Engineering. I think there’s so much engineers can offer to solve important problems like climate change, food security and space exploration. With the recent developments in technology, engineers can partner with other fields to create unique and sustainable solutions for a better future. If inspiration doesn’t knock, you just need to build a door,” Hassen continued.

Having taken part in Eskom Expo in 2019 before the pandemic and lockdown, Hassen added that he enjoyed the diversity of meeting people at Expo, while also learning from other participants and judges.

“It is very exciting to see all forms of science in action, and the additional activities at the Expo inspire all of us to try new things. I have always enjoyed science, technology, engineering, mathematics, innovation (STEMI) since I was a kid,” he said.

Hassen has also been selected to attend a virtual innovation and entrepreneurship boot camp by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) in 2021 with 18 other young scientists. The Grassroots Innovation Programme aims to assist young scientists with taking their project or product to market.

Eskom Expo Executive Director, Parthy Chetty, said: “Even though the entire education system suffered during lockdown in 2020, Eskom Expo activities continued to serve our education system by developing new online content and delivering online workshops. Our firm belief is that no child should be left behind, even in the face of adversity such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This has resulted in an outstanding innovations young scientist Hassen, and this could save lives in the mining sector, and contribute to new technologies for our country and the continent”.

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