UFH Launches first of its kind Online Instrumentation Technology

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History was made on 31 October,  when the University of Fort Hare (UFH) launched a Remote and Virtual Education Laboratory (ReVEL)  attached to the Physics Department on the Alice campus.

This is the first of its kind virtual lab in South Africa and the identification of UFH as the launch site was facilitated by Mr Phumezo Kwinana, Director of the Forté School of Science and Technology  (FOSST) Discovery Centre.   

The ReVEL technology offers several benefits. Using coding and robotics, it will enable students to interact with peers from over 20 universities around the world on experimentations to address local and national imperatives in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).  It will advance teaching and learning to address some technological inadequacies in our communities. It also gives UFH researchers access to various online research equipment worldwide   Users will be able to access the facility whenever and wherever via the internet

The lab was jointly sponsored by the Armaments Corporation of South Africa (Armscor),  Albert Wessels Trust and TOYOTA.   Specialists from Labsland deployed the technology.

Mr Kwinana gave the background and the purpose of this groundbreaking project. He said institutions of higher learning have a responsibility to produce new knowledge to contribute to the body of knowledge.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)  challenges all disciplines to innovate in order to remain relevant. The STEM fields of study are the ones that are more relevant to the 4IR, hence it is imperative for us to initiate projects like such as this one to promote STEM fields of study in general.”

Mr Kwinana is confident that through this lab, the university will be able to elevate the standards of science teaching and learning and research practices through collaboration with other higher institutions, nationally and internationally. There are also intentions to utilize the lab to benefit and find solutions for day-to-day challenges in surrounding rural towns.

“Alice campus is located at the centre of rural-based science schools where there are no laboratories and resources are inadequate. For this lab to be relevant to its communities and capacitate its feeder schools,  we must be innovative and come up with solutions,” said  Kwinana.

UFH is one of the leading universities in the field of agriculture and the ReVEL technology will broaden our ways of teaching and learning even further.  Kwinana said the opportunity to connect with leading institutions in countries such as the United States of America (USA), Spain, Brazil, Germany and India will attract more exchange students and retain current students who tend to migrate to better-resourced institutions.

Mr Obakeng Montsho, Senior Technology Manager at Armsor, congratulated the University of Fort Hare for being pioneers of this project in South Africa. Students and guests watched in awe as Dr Pablo Orduna and Mr Aitor Villar from Labsland demonstrated the technology.

4IR is upon us and the University of Fort Hare is ready and willing to play its part.