Innovation paves the way for 27th Jac van der Merwe Competition

[Artilce by Nane Zietsman]

The Faculty of Engineering would like to congratulate the winners of the 27th Jac van der Merwe Competition for Innovation. The competition, sponsored by MultiChoice, seeks to reward students with the most innovative final-year project and took place virtually on the 14th of December 2021.

The judging panel, headed by Prof Thinus Booysen, had the demanding task of selecting a winner and runner-up from these highly innovative students. Joining the panel as MultiChoice representative was Mr Werner Strydom, who works for the Office of the CTO at Irdeto, where he leads the Advanced Technology, Enterprise Architecture, and Innovation teams. MultiChoice’s involvement as a sponsor started in 2013 and builds on the foundation set by MNet when they first started the competition in 1995 to commemorate the late Jac van der Merwe – a founding member of the company and a Stellenbosch University alumnus. Mr Van der Merwe was well known for his innovative and creative spirit, the main qualities that the competition aims to promote.

Conclusively, the panel awarded the grand prize of R10 000 to Leah Suchet (Process Engineering) for her project: Chemical and enzymatic hydrolysis of alginate, achieved under the supervision of Prof Robby Pott. According to Leah, this was her first real experience of research: “I have learned so many skills, both in and outside of the lab, and have gained valuable confidence which will stand me in good stead going forward!”

Thomas Hettasch (Mechatronic Engineering) was placed second and received prize money of R8 000. His project, supervised by Mr Kevin Neaves, focused on developing a 2x2x2 Rubik’s cube Solver. Hettasch’s project proved great robotic results with its ability to solve a Rubik’s cube in 2.540 seconds.

After considering the exceptional standard of the competing students’ projects, the panel decided to reward the remaining contestants with R3 000 each for their outstanding work. They were:

Mia Simon: Using the Diffusion of Innovations Theory to categorize Construction Industry Participants
Project Leader: Mr Chris Jurgens (Civil Engineering)

De Wet Denkema: Your call is ’important’ to us: A device that converses with spam callers
Project Leader: Prof Thomas Niesler (Electrical & Electronic Engineering)

Luc Duval: Managing Small-scale Aquaponics with IoT Technology
Project Leader: Prof Gert-Jan van Rooyen (Industrial Engineering)

Hele van Rhyn: Underwater hockey puck investigation and optimization
Project Leader: Dr Gareth Erfort (Mechanical Engineering)

We thank all those who played a part in the success of the competition and look forward to seeing what exciting innovation 2022 will hold.

Photograph: (from left to right, top to bottom) Leah Suchet (winner), Mr Werner Strydom (MultiChoice representative), Hele van Rhyn, Luc Duval, De Wet Denkema, Thomas Hettasch (runner-up) and Mia Simon.