“Teaching students to adapt to the future world of work is essential to growing the economy.” That is according to the University of Fort Hare, which believes that deeper education around the Fourth Industrial Revolution will lead to a massive dent in unemployment and inequality.

Staff and our students have a critical role to play in shaping as well as in responding to the significant and sweeping changes to the current order and the way we work

“Staff and our students have a critical role to play in shaping as well as in responding to the significant and sweeping changes to the current order and the way we work,” says UFH Vice- Chancellor Prof. Sibusiso Bhengu.

The university is currently focusing on a number of research areas on 4IR including solar technology, bioenergy engineering, and robotics.
The photochemical and cells technology is a thematic area primarily dealing with device characterisation, optimisation, and degradation analysis at the atomic level using various techniques such as correlative microscopy and scanning probe microscopy. On photovoltaic cells and technology, the Fort Hare Institute of Technology conducts spectral response measurements of novel materials since this is where optimisation is ideally done as well as degradation analysis of photovoltaic cells through 3-Delectron imaging.

In bioenergy engineering, our biomass gasification processing area conducts research on the design, installation and performance monitoring of biomass gasifiers, computer modelling and process optimisation, material characterisation and enhancement through torrefaction. Furthermore, the Fort Hare Institute of Technology, at its SolarWatt Park conducts research on the feasibility and reliability of various digesters. The purpose is to demonstrate biogas an inexpensive sustainable technology and improve the various processes taking place over the digestive period.

Smart energy is essential to help to build South Africa. The aim of our energy efficiency and smart grids course is to design and install energy conservation measures to make domestic dwellings and electricity grids smart through machine learning and hence more efficient. These concepts include, but are not limited to, integration of renewable energy systems into the utility grid, low-cost power electronics for smart home applications, web-based and mobile apps to control smart systems remotely and real-time performance monitoring and forecasting of smart energy systems.

In 2009, the FOSST Discovery Centre received funding from Hewlett Packard (HP) to establish LIP (Learner Intervention Project). The project is still running and has been funded by various organisations. The main anchor of the project is to enhance teaching and learning using technology. Lesson delivery is in two- and three-dimensions (2D & 3D) through the use of modern software to enable learners to understand scientific concepts rather than to memorize them. The project has grown to an extent that it received funds to purchase mobile labs to “take science to the community”.

This is one of the modes of enhancing understanding scientific concepts in both high school and higher institutions. Visitors enjoy interacting with various applications of science in real terms. Families, learners, university of students, community, etc. visit our centre for the purpose of interacting with various scientific equipment. The project is coordinated by the interns and volunteers who are postgraduates in science, agriculture and education at the FOSST Discovery Centre. This way of engaging people has encouraged youth to follow careers in science, engineering and technology. There are more than thirty science and technology exhibits in our centre. This is also another way of introducing modern technology relevant to the 21st Century era (4IR).

In 2015, the FOSST Discovery Centre Robotics project was initiated with the aim to enable and encourage youth to pursue engineering fields like mechatronics, electrical engineering etc. The project is doing very well, and the highlight of 2018 was that our team came third in a national competition. Both high school learners and university students participate in this project. The UFH intends to establish electrical and electronic engineering and this project will play a huge role to encourage learners from the Eastern Cape.