FACULTY OF ENGINEERING AND ARCHITECTURE RESEARCH PROJECTS/PROGRAMMES

The overall strategic objective of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture is to become an entrepreneurial Faculty. Education and training has to be scaled-up to facilitate incubation of new business models using the results/products from research and innovations. This will be done in the Faculty in partnership with the private sector in a new to be developed innovation centre. In addition, through periodic review of curricula and through meaningful research, the Faculty intends moving in a new direction by combining theory with entrepreneurship, thereby producing graduates that satisfy the needs of employers in both the public and private sector, as captured in the University of Sierra Leone strategic plan. The Faculty is providing local companies with an opportunity to work in close contact with researchers in order to develop systems and products for local markets. In the end, this will create jobs and further research as well as boost the attractiveness of engineering education in Sierra Leone.

Lecturers in the Faculty are knowledgeable in a vast range of engineering disciplines including energy, environment, robotics, fatigue test, materials science, design, machining and manufacturing. Selected research projects undertaken by lecturers and students of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture are described below:

RESEARCH PROJECTS

Design, Fabrication and Performance Evaluation of a Solar Powered Chicken Egg Incubator

A Solar photovoltaic powered chicken egg incubator capable of handling 100 eggs was designed and fabricated using locally sourced materials to make it relatively affordable to the average poor farmer dwelling in the rural areas of Sierra Leone. The major components of this design are the incubating unit, automatic temperature device and solar photovoltaic system. The incubating unit test results indicated 23.1% hatchability and 43.3% fertility, but this can be improved to about 75% and even better if the constrains incurred during the tests such as fluctuating temperatures due to the frequent opening of the box to manually turn the eggs and cloudy weather are overcome. A follow-up study is underway to incorporate an automatic egg tuning system in the design with the view to saving the lost heat experienced in the manual turning.

Design and Fabrication of Cooking Stoves

Energy from biomass is widely used in Sierra Leone, especially in the rural areas, for domestic cooking and heating. Although biomass offers itself as a sustainable and carbon-neutral source of energy, its inefficient use in household cooking results in wastage, indoor air pollution and related respiratory and other health problems. The non-availability of cost-effective stoves for utilizing biomass residues for cooking has resulted in its gross underutilization. In this regard, cooking stoves are being designed and fabricated to burn small diameter wood, twigs, sawdust briquettes and charcoal efficiently.

Design of a Pico Pumped Storage Hydropower System for Rural Electrification in Sierra Leone

The reliability of the power supply in Sierra Leone is very unsatisfactory. It is characterized by extreme voltage variations, load discharges and frequent and long outages. According to statistics, electricity reaches less than 13% of the total population of Sierra Leone. This sparse electricity coverage and unreliable service exacerbates poverty conditions among Sierra Leonean citizens, and frustrates productivity and competitiveness of firms. With rural access to electricity estimated to be between 1 and 2%, most areas in the interior of the country are wholly, or largely, without access to grid electricity. Rural electrification is often considered to be the backbone of the rural economy. This research therefore aims at contributing to energy access in Sierra Leone by developing and operating a Pico pump-storage hydropower system that will function by utilizing water from household water tank or reservoir.

The Use of Constructed Wetlands for Pretreatment in Water Supply Systems in Sierra Leone

This study is expected to increase our understanding of introducing Constructed Wetlands within Water Treatment Plants with the view to improving water quality.

Laboratory Evaluation of Cement Reinforced and Cement-Flyash-Gravel (Cfg) Reinforced Concrete Pavement Sections

This work investigates the benefits of adding flyash to cement mixes for stabilizing or reinforcing pavement layers and how factors like mix design, temperature, humidity and time affect the structural and mechanical properties of stabilized pavement layers.

Evaluation of the Earthing of Power Systems and Telecommunication Networks in Sierra Leone

The study will present analysis of three different earthing system configurations buried in different soil resistivity using advanced modelling techniques taking into account safety criteria of the impedances of the earth conductors.

Robotic Arm Control Implementation

This study involves the development of a procedure for building and implementing an articulated robot arm using a microcontroller and servo motors with the help of a USB computer interface. This remote-controlled robot can be controlled by using either a cell phone or any Bluetooth device.

Bidirectional Visitor Counter with Energy Saving Module

This project is designed to develop a Bidirectional Visitor Counter with an Energy Saving Module, which will automatically count the arrival and departure of visitors entering any building.

Ultrasonic Blind Walking Stick

Visually impaired persons lack the ability of visualizing day-to-day life activities especially when moving to unfamiliar locations. A modern ultrasonic blind walking stick is therefore designed to help the blind gain personal independence by updating his/her position and orientation. The walking stick detects obstacles and sends message to the blind through vibration and voice message. The walking stick  also has Anti-theft  protection.

Water Level Indicator with Alarm

A common  problem with  overhead tanks, reservoirs and even hydropower dams is the control of water levels, which usually results in the wastage of water.  This project implemented a user friendly integrated system for overhead tanks/reservoirs with the view to monitoring water levels and wastage of water. Simulations and circuit diagram of the process is done by using MULTISIM computer aided software.

 

 

GSM Security and Alarm System

This system implements real time home monitoring. It detects intrusion and trigger alarm and at the same time notify the owner via phone call through GSM network of the intrusion. The aim is to develop a smart home security system that is user-friendly and can be easily understood and operated by non-technical users.

PARTNERSHIPS/CAPACITY BUILDING

  • New linkage formed with the University of Port Harcourt (UniPort), Nigeria to start a Petroleum Engineering programme in the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture. In this regard, the Faculty is currently engaging the Petroleum Directorate through the College and University to discuss their position on this venture; this will facilitate ownership and support for the programme on the part of the Government of Sierra Leone and appropriate companies and organizations for establishing the Petroleum Engineering programme in the Faculty. This is a prerequisite for the implementation of the MoU signed with UniPort, since scholarships will have to be provided for students to go to UniPort for the training for a start and then return to provide the core staff on the ground to commence the programme locally.
  • The Faculty of Engineering and Architecture is collaborating with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi on a World Bank Africa Centre of Excellence Project. The objective of the project is to promote regional specialization among participating universities in areas that address regional development challenges and strengthen the capacities of these universities to deliver quality training and applied research. The overall development objective of the project is to meet the labor market demands for skills within specific areas where there are skill shortages affecting development, economic growth and poverty reduction.

At the operational level, this Partnership Agreement seeks to facilitate and to enhance academic cooperation and sharing of resources to deliver the agreed partnership activities towards the achievement of the project objectives. The training and research focus areas include the following:

  • Water Resources engineering, management and climate change
  • Urban and Community Water Supply (Treatment and Distribution)
  • Environmental Sanitation and Waste Management
  • Water and Sanitation Policy, Planning and Governance
  • Transportation and Logistics
  • Leeds University (UK), in partnership with the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture and the Sierra Leone Institution of Engineers recently submitted a proposal to the Global Challenges Research Fund for the manufacture of medical devices at the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, Fourah Bay College. The project seeks to empower the local manufacture of circular frames and other orthopedic implants at a fraction of the costs of purchasing them from foreign sources. It would set up a permanent supply of the components and thus enabling greater self-sufficiency. Further, the components could form export trade to other countries. This work will be coordinated through the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture staff who will be trained in the UK by the Engineering Department at Leeds University. This will empower these individuals to apply the same strategy for other expensive medical devices that are currently imported, which will form part of other grant applications.
  • In September 2016 the Royal Academy for Engineers, UK launched a capacity-building programme as a delivery agent for the Global Challenges Research Fund, UK and invited bids worldwide. The project was dubbed the Africa Catalyst Programme Phase 1. The aim of the GCRF Africa Catalyst programme is to strengthen professional engineering bodies in Sub-Saharan Africa so that they can effectively promote the profession, share best practice and increase local engineering capacity to help development. This is to be supported by high quality research focusing on expanding the evidence base for the importance of having robust engineering institutions and the role they play in delivering sustainable growth, and mapping engineering capacity and diversity in the countries where grant funding had been administered.

The Sierra Leone Institution of Engineers in partnership with the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture and the Engineers for Change Sierra Leone, a UK based organization promoting engineering practice and professional growth, submitted a successful proposal that saw the training of twenty graduate engineers through a programme of soft-skills training and supervised internship in partner companies and engineering establishments.

The success of Phase 1 titled the Young Engineers Corp project, led to an invitation to the partners to bid for funding for a more expended programme dubbed the Africa Catalyst Programme Phase 2.  The proposal submitted by the partners was successful and the project commenced in January 2018 and should end in 2021.

The Programme Objectives include:

  1. Improving in the short-term job opportunities for graduate engineers from the University of Sierra Leone.
  2. Improving the overall standard, relevance and quality of engineering courses and CPD being offered at the University of Sierra Leone and the professional institution.
  3. Empowering the engineering departments at the University of Sierra Leone to be creative in introducing innovation in research, teaching and development projects in partnership with industry, funders and external partners.
  4. Creating a community of engineers that can drive improvement in the standard of engineering practice.
  5. Drawing on the skills, connections and experience of the Sierra Leone diaspora community to support the objectives as listed above.

The Delivery Programme is divided into 5 component parts as described below:

Part 1 – Young Engineers Corp (Continuation from pilot project)

Part 2 – Raising Standard of Academic Education

Part 3 – Academic Accreditation Assessment

Part 4 – Professional Training, CPD and Mentoring

Part 5 – Applying Innovation to deliver Commercial Outcomes

  • The Faculty of Engineering and Architecture is currently engaging the Centre for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship – Sierra Leone for the possible creation of an innovation hub at the Faculty to train new graduates on the development of software solutions for Industry and society needs and entrepreneurship.
  • Cooperation agreement signed between SRH Hochschule Berlin – University of Applied Sciences, Berlin, Germany and Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone for the purpose of promoting mutual research ventures and academic exchange in the area of Engineering and International Business with focus on Renewable Energy, Water and Waste Water Management.
  • A Small Hydropower Technology Training Centre (SHPTTC) was established in the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the United Nations Industrial Development Agency (UNIDO) and Fourah Bay College (FBC) in 2014 to promote clean energy innovation by teams of scientists and engineers from UNIDO and FBC. UNIDO also donated Small hydropower equipment worth about One Hundred and Fifty Thousand United States Dollars ($150,000) to the Centre.

The Centre is managed by a Directorate that coordinates and administers its activities by implementing targeted and effective Research and Development (R&D) programmes, which can spur local green technology innovation and ultimately support the development of a resilient local green energy technology industry.

In addition to providing an opportunity to perform state of the art research on Hydropower R&D activities, the Centre also undertakes the following specialized Research Groups with membership from across the Faculties of the University in addition to full time research fellows and external members:

  • Solar Energy Research – Both solar thermal and Photovoltaics (PV) researches are being undertaken with focus on practical end use applications.
  • Biofuels Research – Biodiesel production is being undertaken and the design of a Continuous Stirred Tank Reactor (CSTR) for this purpose is well underway.
  • Energy Efficiency and Conservation Research – The Centre carries out research on how to operate conventional power systems more efficiently with outreach programmes to sensitize the immediate community on use of energy efficient lamps and other energy conservation measures.

With the establishment of the SHPTT Centre, the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture now offers study opportunities at the MPhil and PhD levels in Energy Studies.

Looking Ahead

The SHPTT Centre seeks partnership with national and international Centres and agencies for the development of renewable energy technologies for the sustainable economic development of Sierra Leone and the West African region at large. Training/capacity building activities in Renewable Energy Technologies (RETs) for governments and the private sector is provided at the Centre. Partnership is also sought, especially from the private sector, for the extension of the RETs developed by the centre so that the benefits reach out to the larger society.