Participants excites panel with their creative findings at Jac van der Merwe Competition for Innovation

[Article by Amber Viviers]

Jacques Wust, a final-year student from the Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, was named the overall winner of the 28th Jac van der Merwe Competition for Innovation. His project, titled A Feasibility Study of an Active Variable-geometry Port for a Bass-reflex Speaker System, explored why a better bass response from speakers is needed. His project leader was Prof Coenrad Fourie.

The competition seeks to reward students with the most innovative final-year project and took place on Monday, 5 December 2022. It was established in 1995 to commemorate Stellenbosch University alum and founding member of M-Net, Jac van der Merwe, who tragically passed away in an aeroplane crash in 1994. The competition honours his creative and innovative spirit.

MultiChoice has been the industry sponsor since 2013 and Rudolf Kogler, an alum of the faculty, represented Multichoice on the day. This leading entertainment company sponsors R30 000 towards prize money.

Jacques said music is consumed in large numbers and greatly impacts society. “Current loudspeakers are not good enough. Modern music demands better speakers with lower, louder and more bass frequencies.”

His research proved that an active, variable-geometry port is feasible and beneficial, although not appropriate for hi-fi speakers as they want a perfectly flat response. “It is a game changer for small portable speakers and PA speakers that often operate near the limit of their bass capabilities,” he said.

The runner-up was Gerhardt Breytenbach from the Department of Industrial Engineering, who explored a computer vision approach to analysing broadcast rugby footage under the supervision of Dr Stephan Nel.

His main objective was to develop a computer vision toolkit that could aid the South African Rugby Union (SARU) analyse historical rugby footage effectively. The competitive advantage includes the automation of recurring tasks and near real-time processing capabilities. “The proposed toolkit should accurately segment and classify different gameplay scenarios according to search queries and present these segments as playable video,” he said.

Asher Valentini (Mechatronic Engineering) was placed third. His project, supervised by Dr Mike Owen, focused on the design of a motorcyclist heating vest customised to the unique warming needs of motorcyclists. His research also showed that the heating vest has strong commercial potential.

The panel was extremely impressed by the standard of innovation students presented with their projects. Announcing the winners, Prof Gert-Jan van Rooyen, who chaired the event, encouraged the students to not only see their engineering degree as a way of designing solutions to problems but to be the next generation of inventors and innovators. “Being an engineer is primarily a creative process. So go out and apply your thoughts to make the world better in some way or other.”

The other candidates who participated on the day (in the order that they presented) were:

Thomas van der Westhuizen (Chemical Engineering)
Project title: Small scale production of biochar from alien invasive trees
Project leader: Prof Neill Goosen

Jordyn Meyer (Civil Engineering)
Project title: Strength and durability assessment of slag-modified 3D printed geopolymer composite
Project leader: Prof John Babafemi

JJ Breetzke (Mechanical Engineering)
Project title: Develop the Hull Vane Concept for a Catamaran
Project leader: Dr Chris Meyer

Photo caption:
From the left: Asher Valentini (third; Mechatronic), Jacques Wust (winner; Electrical & Electronic), JJ Breetzke (Mechanical), Rudolf Kogler (representing the sponsor, Multichoice), Gerhardt Breytenbach (runner-up; Industrial), Jordyn Meyer (Civil), and Thomas van der Westhuizen (Process).