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18 March 2020 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
Solar car Team
Excited about a first for the UFS, Team UFS is entering the 2020 Sasol Solar Challenge. From the left, front, are: Fouché Blignaut, Mechatronic Engineering; Nathan Bernstein, Agricultural Engineering; Lucas Erasmus, Physics; middle: Barend Crous, Manufacturing and Instrumentation; Hendrik van Heerden, Physics (team leader); Antonie Fourie, Physics; Prof Danie Vermeulen, Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (team director); Prof Koos Terblans, Head of the Department of Physics; Theo Gropp, Mechanical Engineering; back: Louis Lagrange, Head of the Department of Engineering; and Mark Jacson, Electronics.

An interdepartmental team from the University of the Free State (UFS) has announced that it will enter and participate in the 2020 Sasol Solar Challenge, scheduled to take place from 11 to 19 September this year. 

For the challenge, Team UFS will build a self-propelled manned vehicle that uses solar power systems to travel from point A to point B. The 14-member team of the UFS will travel on public roads from Pretoria to Cape Town via a predefined route over eight days. They will compete against more than 15 other teams, both local and international. The team that finishes with the greatest distance covered within the allotted time, will win the race. Teams will race every day between 07:30 and 17:00.

The four drivers to operate the vehicles will be selected from participating UFS departments in the coming months.

First solar car for the UFS
Dr Hendrik van Heerden from the Department of Physics has been planning the solar car project – Lengau (meaning Cheetah in Sesotho) – over the past year. He will start assembling the car in the next month together with colleagues and students from both the Departments of Physics and Engineering Sciences (EnSci).

Not only is this a dream come true, but it is also an opportunity for the UFS to show that they can do this. “We do not need the backing of a large and long-established engineering department to build a car like this, a young and vibrant team can do just as much!”, says Dr Van Heerden, who plans to complete the car within a few months, ready to be calibrated and tested later in June.

Capacity in green and sustainable engineering
“The ability of Team UFS to participate is possible due to recent research developments on photovoltaic technologies (solar cells) in the Department of Physics, a well-established leader in the field of surface and material sciences. The university also has established capacity in the fields of photoluminescence and nanomaterials (nanomaterials in energy storage). Additionally, with the establishment of EnSci, the university has expanded into this field, which will bring building capacity in the area of green and sustainable engineering to the project,” says Dr Van Heerden.

Promoting development into green technologies and 4IR
According to Dr Van Heerden, it is clear that the university wishes to become a strong role player in the development and utilisation of green energy, as can be seen in the implementation of relevant technologies on its various campuses. “Thus, for the UFS to be recognised in this research area, it is important to participate in related ‘green’ events where staff and students can build their capacity of practical knowledge by constructing participation equipment such as the solar car.”

He believes that this project has the potential to become a strong base for student training and capacity building in all technological fields, which can promote base development to 4IR.

News Archive

Lots of inspiration at Autumn Graduation Ceremony


Graduates celebrate the results of years of study at the graduation ceremony on the Bloemfontein Campus.
Photo: Hannes Pieterse
17 April 2013

Live streaming of ceremonies available from 16 April - 19 April 2013:

Joshua Johnson YouTube video

The university’s Autumn Graduation Ceremony got off to a vibrant start with energetic performances and inspiring messages for graduates.

Joshua Johnson, an American student who uses his talent for tap-dancing to fund his tertiary education, mesmerised the audience on the first of the four-day graduation ceremony with his story of hope and perseverance. The student from Penn State University travels five hours by bus to New York every weekend where he tap-dances on the subway trains to earn money for his tuition fees.

Delivering a keynote address, Joshua told graduates that, in order to achieve their goals, they have to understand and work diligently with the 24 hours they get to live daily. “Start with a bang and end with a bang,” he said, encouraging the audience in the nearly-packed Callie Human Centre to join him in a rhythmic tap-dancing beat.

“Don’t follow in the footsteps of someone else. Take the beat of life, but add your rhythm to it," his wise words resonating with the exhilarated graduates.

Joshua will be the guest speaker at the ceremonies on 16, 17 and 19 April 2013 and will deliver a dance item during each occasion.

Dr Khotso Mokhele, Chancellor of the University, echoed Joshua‘s message, telling graduates not to be discouraged by life’s difficulties.

“Take what you have learned over the last three or four years and use that knowledge to reach your goal,” he advised.

Prof Jonathan Jansen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, encouraged them to continue to study. “To break the cycle of poverty, get an education, get a degree.” He told them that as graduates they are ten times more likely to get a job, with the odds rising as they continue their postgraduate studies.

Well-known radio host and Idols South Africa judge, Gareth Cliff, will be the guest speaker at two ceremonies on 18 April 2013. He will be joined by Vicus Visser, the South African YouTube singing sensation. Dubbed Bloemfontein’s Justin Bieber, Vicus and his brother Vincent will perform during these two ceremonies.

The programme for the respective ceremonies is:

Wednesday 17 April

09:30 Diplomas and certificates up to and including honours degrees in the Faculty of Education.
14:30 Diplomas and certificates up to and including honours degrees in the Faculties of Health Sciences, Law and Theology.

Thursday 18 April

09:30 Diplomas and certificates up to and including honours degrees in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences: only Agricultural Sciences and Architecture.
14:30 Diplomas and certificates up to and including honours degrees in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences: only Natural Sciences.

Friday 19 April

09:30 Diplomas and certificates up to and including honours degrees in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences: all diplomas and degrees in the Faculty, except BCom and BComHons.
14:30 Diplomas and certificates up to and including honours degrees in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences: only BCom and BComHons.

The Qwaqwa Campus’ graduation ceremony will take place on 8 June 2013. Diplomas/certificates up to and including doctorates will be awarded at this ceremony.

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