‘Hacking business solutions through technology and engineering’ was this year’s theme of Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) conference and exhibition in Nairobi. The event organized in conjunction with AllenHark group brought together persons from different backgrounds in business, engineering and technology.

The two day event included start-up pitch and panel sessions whereby university students had to present their marvelous and amazing projects and industry experts advised students respectively. The topics in discussion comprised of integrating engineering and tech into business, capitalizing on entrepreneurship-opening up opportunities for young people, increasing women participation in technology and engineering, and future of engineering.

On the first day, Prof. Martin Nzomo Vice Chair, IEEE Kenya Section gave a welcoming address. He said “The IEEE focuses on advancing theory and practice of electrical, electronics, computer engineering and computer science. IEEE membership is open to professionals with varying levels of academic accomplishment and work experience. The Kenya section has over 2,000 members and to become a member it only costs one KES1, 200.”  Nzomo also insisted that they are working towards seeing that all engineering departments in various universities come together and participate in other activities that the engineering fraternity offers.

After the opening, a set of panelists took to the floor to discuss a very crucial topic on integrating engineering and tech into business-CEO perspective. The guests were CEO’s from Silencec, Technobrain, FinCap Risk Advisors and Allen Hark Group.  These panelists majored their views on growing businesses through use of technology and still attaining profits. “Communicating professionalism is key in business and firms should not only concentrate on profits. Setting values and choosing the right people to help you in carrying out your business is a major characteristic that every engineer in business should put into consideration,” remarked Dr. Almerindo Graziano, CEO of Silencec.

Dr. Graziano added that setting values will effectively help in delivery of services and money can come after good values have been instilled among employees. This will help in executing company’s vision and making better decisions.

Anand Mohan, COO, Technobrain spoke about the role of education while integrating engineering and technology in business. He announced that his company takes up graduates for six months for training in all engineering departments in an effort to combine learning with professional development.

Jonathan Kibet, a student at Technical University of Kenya made his first presentation. The mobile solution referred to as ‘Amigos’, can be used to sending messages faster and without delay. The target audience for the solution is university students and lecturers.  Another project that interested attendees is a wind façade project being done by two students from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Mombasa. The project involves installing wind turbines on houses located in Mombasa due to the hot temperatures experienced in the area.

Session two of the first day concluded with a tough topic on capitalizing on entrepreneurship-opening opportunities for young people. Josphine Muchogu, a lecturer at JKUAT advised students that it is good for engineers to be entrepreneurs in an effort to enhance growth of the economy. To become an entrepreneur, there is need for individuals to have mentors to take them through their passion.

Speaking on the second day of the event at Strathmore University, Chairman IEEE Adhoc Committee for activities in Africa, Vincent Kaabunga said “This year’s conference focused on student engineer exhibition and was traditionally organized by IEEE Kenya branch in collaboration with graduates of the last decade chapter. IEEE Africa plans to work together with Engineers Board of Kenya to see engineering programmes in Kenya gain international recognition too.”

“We also intend to increase access to technical information among members, universities as well as the general public in Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia. Moreover, a technical online platform is underway so that we make our conferences available to our members, Kabuunga stated.”

Further, IEEE will closely work with Engineering, Computing and Technology Academic group across Africa so as to encourage professors and lecturers to come and work together. In October, IEEE held the IEEExtreme 24-hour programming competition. IEEExtreme is a global challenge in which teams of IEEE Student members are advised and proctored by an IEEE member, and often supported by an IEEE Student Branch. The students compete in a 24-hour time span against each other to solve a set of programming problems.

During the second day, industry experts working with companies such as IBM and Kenya Power encouraged women to stand out in the engineering profession. Sally Musonye, an engineer gave a vivid picture of how she tried to secure a job with Kenya Power. “When I first joined Kenya Power I started as a sales person and it involved writing a lot of reports every time. To me this was very challenging. But after doing it for some time, I decided to stand out and be what I studied, an engineer. When I am in the field, I feel good because am able to do what my other male counterparts can. I wish to tell women in technology and engineering that the field is competitive, so stand out in the career path you decide to take.”

A final panelist of day two was Dr. Nathan Wangusi. He spoke about accessibility of water while constructing smart cities in Nairobi. Dr. Wangusi is an engineer who has specialized in water and is currently located at IBM, where he researches on water and waste management. He insists that inadequate water supply in Nairobi has been brought about by increase in population and lack of proper developed water infrastructures. “A smart city is an area where management of flow of resources is well integrated.IBM on its part is in support of good infrastructure so as to eliminate the issue of inadequate water supply across Nairobi region. Kenya can do better in this area just as it doing well in the energy sector and creation of mobile applications, Wangusi concluded.

In his opinion, CEO Digital Age Institute, David Svarrer said that the idea for smart cities is a good concept but it can’t be developed in Nairobi. Reason being, Kenya lacks proper monitoring and regulation system that is of good integrity and if they are to be constructed, all systems of government have to be checked to avoid corruption.

During the closing session, students who had pitched their startups in the conference were given awards after a tough competition.  One of the awards was a full year membership opportunity with IEEE, Kenya Engineer subscription and 40 years of progress in Kenya. Some of the tech start-ups that won are Auto-run device, cloud ticketing system, Amigos and topus tracker.

IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional society. Founded in 1884 by a handful of practitioners of the new electrical engineering discipline, the Institute is comprised of more than 360,000 members who conduct and participate in its activities in 150 countries. The men and women of the IEEE are the technical and scientific professionals making the revolutionary engineering advances which are reshaping our world today.

The society sponsors technical conferences, symposiums and local meetings worldwide, publishes nearly 25 per cent of the world’s technical papers in electrical, electronics and computer engineering. It provides educational programs to keep its members’ knowledge and expertise state-of-the-art. The purpose of all these activities is to enhance the quality of life for all peoples through improved public awareness of the influences and applications of its technologies, and to advance the standing of the engineering profession and its members.

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