“I spent my whole life living in one place, so I figured it was time for me to gain some new experiences. Stellenbosch helped me place myself in an unfamiliar situation to try and better myself,” says Tyron Jardine who did an MEng in Mechatronic Engineering at Stellenbosch from 2019 to 2020. Mr Jardine comes from Kempton Park and did his undergrad at the University of Pretoria.
He continues: “I have always been interested in technology, and engineering was an easy choice to make in terms of working with or around it. I like thinking of ideas and engineering allows me to materialise these ideas. Before I made my decision to do postgrad at Stellenbosch, I visited the campus to see what it is all about.”
The topic which caught his eye was An autonomous robot to clean heliostats. “I chose the topic from the list of available topics at the varsity. At first, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but the topic made sense for how I wanted to align myself in industry. Luckily, I got a great supervisor (Dr Willie Smit) with it! My project was to design and build a robot capable of cleaning heliostat mirrors in concentrated solar power plants. The robot uses a camera to navigate the mirrors. So, I designed and built a robot that cleans heliostats. The biggest challenge in the project was to determine the orientation of the robot on the mirror. Normally, magnetometers would be used, but since there is iron on the heliostat, the sensor would not be able to determine true north. I used a camera to determine the orientation of the robot. An algorithm extracts the orientation of the heliostat edges from the photo, allowing the robot to detect its orientation.”
He thoroughly enjoyed doing his master’s at Stellenbosch University. “Stellenbosch is a lovely place to live and work. My master’s taught me more than I could have imagined, and I think the experiences I have learnt will stay with me forever.”
Due to the nature of his project, he was fortunate that the Covid-19 pandemic did not affect him negatively. He says: “Covid didn’t really affect the way I did my project. The robot required a lot of time indoors before it was tested, so I was able to do all my work at home without interruption. I did some testing on the solar farm but I wasn’t affected negatively at all. After graduation I will be looking to start my career in the industry, perhaps with something that uses robotics in renewable energy.”
Left: Tyron Jardine in the Winterbourne Garden in Birmingham during a trip in January 2020.
Right: The robot designed and built to clean heliostats at the Helio100 solar farm.