Centre for Scientific Equipment Maintenance (CeSEM) Staff Receive Training in Tottori University, Japan

Mr. Omondi exploring a virtual space using the Oculus Quest virtual reality headset

The Centre for Scientific Equipment Maintenance (CeSEM) has received a major boost from the AFRICA-ai-JAPAN Project (Phase II) to have two of its members – Mr. Daniel Omondi and Mr. David Kanja – undertake a specialized short-term training programme at the Tottori university. Mr. Omondi is the current Manager, Engineering Workshops where CeSEM is housed and managed from whereas Mr. Kanja is a Technician in the Department of Electrical and Electronics but doubles up as the Technician in CeSEM. The training that started on 1st September 2022 is being undertaken at Tottori university’s Innovation Centre for Engineering Education (ICEE), and will run until 14th November 2022.  This is one of the planned activities geared towards capacity development for the Innovation Prototyping and Integrated Centre (iPIC) sub-taskforce for this financial year.

The training under the Knowledge co-creation programme (KCCP) seeks to impart knowledge and skills that will be useful in the management and operation of CeSEM.  Other envisaged benefits of the training programme include; knowledge and skill-sets that can be shared; enhancement of activities of CeSEM through acquired knowledge and skills; human resource capacity development in new and emerging technologies; professionalism, teamwork and attention to detail, and opportunities for closer collaborations on technical issues affecting the Centre.

Facilitators at Tottori University show Mr. Kanja how to use the dial test indicator to inspect flatness of an assembled CNC frame

Facilitators at Tottori University include Professor Yuichi Ono, the Manager of the Innovation Centre for Engineering Education (ICEE) and Assistant Professor Dr. Tomoaki Kageyama.  Among the items in the training program include machine tool training; advanced prototype development and production; CNC machine development; Metaverse Virtual Reality (VR) systems; reverse engineering using 3D scanning technologies; using Augmented Reality (AR) technology and equipment for remote lectures on equipment operation; and a number of scheduled industrial visits.

The Japanese government through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has procured many equipment to Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) since its inception in the early 1980’s through Grant Aid and Technical Cooperation Projects.  As a follow-up to this, JICA carried out a survey in 2014 on effectiveness of use of donated equipment.  The survey established that a number of equipment were not being used for various reasons.  A small subcommittee consisting of technologists was set up to establish the cause of lack of use of the equipment.  It was established that the component of specialized maintenance and repair services was lacking, leading to breakdown and abandonment of such equipment.  Requests for new equipment while existing once were not well-taken care of was not a sustainable way of using resources.  For this reason, one of the recommendations of the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) held in Naivasha in 2015 was to set up CeSEM.

Mr. Omondi upgrading CAD modelling skills using Inventor Fusion 360 software

Phase I of the AFRICA-ai-JAPAN Project played a big role in the setting up of the Centre by providing equipment and opportunities for technical trainings– effort that has continued to the second phase.  The university seconded a number of staffs, who have been active in reviving broken down equipment.  For the last four years, CeSEM has played a critical role in ensuring that training and research equipment are well-maintained and in good working order.  Though there are teething problems faced by the Centre, a total of over five hundred (500) sets of equipment have been restored to their working status.

The AFRICA-ai-JAPAN Project (Phase II) office facilitated a forum for discussions on how best to overcome challenges faced by CeSEM.  This was done via zoom on 16th September 2022, where the project office was represented by Dr. Aoki and Ms Toda, while CeSEM was represented by the Engineering Workshop Manager Mr. Daniel Omondi.  The guest in the discussion was Dr. Kyoko Nakano, who is a member of the JICA delegation despatched from the middle of September to October. Good suggestions were made with respect to practical plans for utilization and application of acquired knowledge and skills, recognition of responsibilities and expectations of CeSEM, the importance of supporting training and research activities at JKUAT, and mechanisms for strengthening JKUAT’s education and research capabilities including sustainability.

In the long run, it is envisaged that activities of CeSEM will not only benefit JKUAT, but could be upscaled to provide the much-needed services to other institutions of higher learning and research.

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