Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Previous Archive
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

Inaugural lecture: Prof. Annette Wilkinson
2008-04-16

A strong plea for a pursuit of “scholarship” in higher education

Prof. Annette Wilkinson of the Centre for Higher Education Studies and Development in the Faculty of the Humanities at the University of the Free State (UFS) made as strong plea for a pursuit of “scholarship” in higher education.

She said in her inaugural lecture that higher education has to deal with changes and demands that necessitate innovative approaches and creative thinking when it concerns effective teaching and learning in a challenging and demanding higher education environment. She referred to a recent research report prepared for the Council for Higher Education (CHE) which spells out the alarming situation regarding attrition rates and graduation output in South African higher education and emphasises factors leading to the situation. These factors include socio-economic conditions and shortcomings in the school and the subsequent under preparedness of a very large proportion of the current student population. However, what is regarded as one of the key factors within the sector’s control is the implementation of strategies for improving graduate output.

She said: “The CHE report expresses concern about academics’ adherence to traditional teaching practices at institutions, which have not changed significantly to make provision for the dramatic increase in diversity since the 1980s.

“Raising the profile of teaching and learning in terms of accountability, recognition and scholarship is essential for successful capacity-building,” she said. “The notion of scholarship, however, brings to the minds of many academics the burden of ‘publish or perish’. In many instances, the pressures to be research-active are draining the value put on teaching. Institutions demand that staff produce research outputs in order to qualify for any of the so-called three Rs – resources, rewards and recognition.

“These have been abundant for research, but scarce when it comes to teaching – with the status of the latter just not on the same level as that of research. From within their demanding teaching environments many lecturers just feel they do not have the time to spend on research because of heavy workloads, that their efforts are under-valued and that they have to strive on the basis of intrinsic rewards.”

She said: “It is an unfortunate situation that educational expertise, in particular on disciplinary level, is not valued, even though in most courses, as in the Programme in Higher Education Studies at the UFS, all applications, whether in assignments, projects or learning material design, are directly applied to the disciplinary context. We work in a challenging environment where the important task of preparing students for tomorrow requires advanced disciplinary together with pedagogical knowledge.”

Prof. Wilkinson argued that a pursuit of the scholarship of teaching and learning holds the potential of not only improving teaching and learning and consequently success rates of students, but also of raising the status of teaching and recognising the immense inputs of lecturers who excel in a very demanding environment. She emphasised that not all teaching staff will progress to the scholarship level or are interested in such an endeavour. She therefore suggested a model in which performance in the area of teaching and learning can be recognised, rewarded and equally valued on three distinct levels, namely the levels of excellence, expertise and scholarship. An important feature of the model is that staff in managerial, administrative and support posts can also be rewarded for their contributions on the different levels for all teaching related work.

Prof. Wilkinson also emphasised the responsibility or rather, accountability, of institutions as a whole, as well as individual staff members, in providing an environment and infrastructure where students can develop to their full potential. She said that in this environment the development of the proficiency of staff members towards the levels of excellence, expertise and scholarship must be regarded as a priority.

“If we want to improve students’ success rates the institution should not be satisfied with the involvement in professional development opportunities by a small minority, but should set it as a requirement for all teaching staff, in particular on entry into the profession and for promotion purposes. An innovative approach towards a system of continuous professional development, valued and sought after, should be considered and built into the institutional performance management system.”

As an example of what can be achieved, Prof. Wilkinson highlighted the work of one of the most successful student support programmes at the UFS, namely the Career Preparation Programme (CPP), implemented fourteen years ago, bringing opportunities to thousands of students without matric exemption. The programme is characterised by dedicated staff, a challenging resource-based approach and foundational courses addressing various forms of under preparedness. Since 1993 3 422 students gained entry into UFS degree programmes after successfully completing the CPP; since 1996 1 014 of these students obtained their degrees, 95 got their honours degrees, 18 their master’s degrees and six successfully completed their studies as medical doctors.

Prof. Wilkinson said: “I believe we have the structures and the potential to become a leading teaching-learning university and region, where excellence, expertise and scholarship are recognised, honoured and rewarded.”

 

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.

Accept