Civil Engineering student wins prestigious Innovation prize

Frederick Bester (BEng Civil) won the 2018 Jac van der Merwe Competition for Innovation that was held in December last year at the Faculty of Engineering.

Six candidates, representing the six BEng programmes offered in the Faculty, presented their final-year projects to an evaluation panel comprising the Vice-Dean: Teaching and Quality Assurance, six academics and Given Ramadzanga, who represented the sponsor, MultiChoice. The panel selected Frederick as the winner. The title of his final-year project was Benchmark Structures for 3D Printed Concrete. His study leader was Prof Gideon van Zijl. Frederick received R12 000 as first prize.

Here is a summary of his interesting winning project:

Academia and industry lack unified test methods to quantify the buildability of 3D printable concrete (3DPC). Buildability refers to the ability of a printable concrete to withstand the stress imposed by consecutively deposited layers without causing excessive deformation or collapse of the print object. Frederick’s project proposes benchmark structures to assess the buildability of a 3DPC. The benchmark structures quantify the capacity of a cement-based material to maintain sufficient stability and shape retention under a reasonable wall gradient and height. The proposed benchmark structures enable 3DPC institutions to systematically quantify the performance of 3DPC and facilitate industry-wide data collection, towards ultimately promoting the advancement and utilisation of this novel technology in the construction industry.

Frederick conducted a finite element analyses (FEA) of the benchmark structures. He evaluated a hollow cylindrical column, a spherical dome, as well as ascending and descending vertex cones. Each benchmark structure exhibited different modes of material and structural failure, providing insight into the limitations of a printable concrete mixture. Subsequently, the benchmark structures were validated through 3D printing, and displayed reasonable agreement with the FEA results.

Furthermore, Frederick and Marchant van den Heever combined their projects in 3DPC to present at the annual Growthpoint Greenovate Awards. The Greenovate Awards, hosted in Johannesburg, exposes students to key focus areas concerning sustainability within the industry and introduces industry to the talent available to them.  Competing against students from eight South African universities Frederick and Marchant achieved third place in the Engineering category. Moreover, Frederick has been accepted to present his project at the FIB Symposium for concrete innovations in materials, design and structures, hosted in May 2019 at Kraków, Poland.

The Jac van der Merwe Competition for Innovation was named after an alumnus of this Faculty who was a founder member of M-Net and who was known for his creativity and innovativeness. Unfortunately, Jac was killed in an aeroplane crash in 1994 in his prime. To commemorate his creative spirit, M-Net established this annual competition in 1995 whereby the Maties engineering student with the most innovative final-year project is selected. Since 2013, this prize is sponsored by MultiChoice with prize money to the total value of R30 000. This is the biggest prize in the Faculty of Engineering.

The other participants were:

Mechanical: Claudia de Wet Study leader: Prof Hanno Reuter (Manufacture and Testing of a Pressure Regulating Control Valve for a Novel Irrigation System.) 

Mechatronic: Jody Julies Study leader: Peter Blaine (Development of a Passenger Counting System for the Rail Environment.)           

Chemical: Suzanne van Niekerk Study leader: Dr Annie Chimphango (The development of a functional cellulose-based bioactive film.)

Industrial: Ruan Spies Study leader: Prof Saartjie Grobbelaar (Decision support system for medical trial recruitment planning and monitoring.)

Electrical and Electronic: Kobus Kotzé Study leader: Dr Jacky Gilmore (SLM 3D-Printed Horn Antenna for Satellite Communications at X-band.)

Ruan Spies (Industrial) and Kobus Kotzé (Electrical and Electronic Engineering) were joint-runners-up. They received R6 000 each. The other three candidates received R2 000 each for their participation.


From the left: Jody Julies (Mechatronic), Ruan Spies (joint-runner-up, Industrial), Frederick Bester (winner, Civil), Claudia de Wet (Mechanical), Given Ramadzanga (representing the sponsor, MultiChoice), Suzanne van Niekerk (Chemical/Process) and Kobus Kotzé (joint-runner-up, Electrical and Electronic).