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Pioneering Engineering in Ethiopia

Ethiopia Engineering news story, staff and students.

The Bedford College Group partnered with STEMpower Ethiopia to share engineering skills in sub-Saharan Africa.

Bedford College Engineering lecturer John Paintin travelled to Ethiopia in July for a two-week Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) collaborative training project with STEMpower, a non-profit NGO that aims to impart practical engineering skills to aspiring young African engineers.

The training focused on programming and hands-on wiring/operation of Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), a form of automation technology that John has been teaching at Bedford College for the past nine years. The first week of training took place at the FOKA STEM centre in Debre Zeit, a small town 45km from the country’s capital, Addis Ababa. The second week was held at the STEM FAB laboratory in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia Engineering news story, students in classroom.
Ethiopia Engineering news story, engineering students.

A gap in training

During a holiday in Ethiopia 16 months ago, John had a chance meeting with a former student, Fasil Woldegabriel, who introduced him to one of the STEMpower centres that was already working with microcontrollers and robotics. However, their discussion identified a gap in the automation training, sparking the idea of a collaborative project on PLCs, the default choice for automation in the industry.

John comments:

“In autumn of 2022, some Zoom lectures were conducted. Later, the project received a significant boost when Routeco, the UK supplier for Rockwell Automation, donated four Micro-850 PLCs, one of the leading names in the automation sector”.

The Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) were transported by air to the capital of Ethiopia. Colleagues from Ethiopian STEM worked diligently to clear the Controllers from the notoriously strict Ethiopian customs, so they could be made available by Thursday of the first training week and throughout the second week. The first group of trainees, consisting of STEM Lab coordinators from various universities across the country, raced to get the PLCs connected and operational.

John adds:

“I am hopeful that the programming skills acquired by the Ethiopian engineers will enable them to contribute towards automating and streamlining the growing manufacturing sector in Ethiopia. A big thanks to the Engineering department at Bedford College for making this collaboration possible”.