The Bedford College Group has taken part in a pioneering partnership with STEMpower Ethiopia to share engineering skills in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This July, Bedford College Engineering lecturer John Paintin travelled to Ethiopia for a two-week Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) collaborative training project with STEMpower, a non-profit NGO seeking to impart practical Engineering skills to aspiring young African Engineers.
The first week of training was at the FOKA STEM centre at Debre Zeit, a small town 45km from the country’s capital of Addis Ababa, and then for a second week at the STEM FAB laboratory in Addis Ababa.
The training focussed on programming and hands-on wiring / operation of Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), a form of automation technology that John has taught at Bedford College for the past nine years.
Whilst on holiday in Ethiopia 16 months ago, a chance meeting with a former student, Fasil Woldegabriel, led to a visit to one of the STEMpower centres. The centre was already working with Microcontrollers and Robotics but their discussion identified a gap in the automation training, sparking the idea of a collaborative project on PLCs, the default choice for automation in industry.
“It started with some Zoom lectures in the autumn of 2022 but the project was given a big boost by the donation of four Micro-850 PLCs from Routeco, the UK suppliers for one of the big names in the automation sector, Rockwell Automation.”
After the PLCs were air-freighted to the Ethiopian capital, Ethiopian STEM colleagues worked tirelessly to clear the Controllers from the notorious Ethiopian customs, so they were available to use by the Thursday of the first training week and for the whole of the second week. The first group of trainees – STEM Lab coordinators from different Universities around the country, raced to get the PLCs wired up and ready to use.
“I hope the programming skills gained will enable this and future generations of Ethiopian engineers to contribute to the automation and streamlining of the growing Ethiopian manufacturing sector.
“And a big thanks to the Engineering department at Bedford College for making the collaboration happen”.