College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Summa Cum Laude for Mechanical Trio

Graduating top of their class at UKZN, Mr Daniel Kirkman, Ms Emma Stubbs and Mr Dhiven Naidoo all earned Bachelor of Science in Engineering (Mechanical Engineering) degrees summa cum laude.

For Kirkman, his degree earned him a place on Stellenbosch University’s master’s degree programme. ‘As a child, LEGO was always my favourite toy and my love for design developed from there,’ he said. ‘I also enjoyed Maths and Science through school so studying Mechanical Engineering was a logical next step. I still haven’t quite outgrown LEGO though!

‘I am very fortunate that I was able to study in a field I am passionate about so I really enjoyed the work although it was not without its challenges.’

Discussing his research, Kirkman said: ‘My final-year design project was an industry based one. My group was tasked with the redesign of electrode components for a fencing-mesh welder with the aim being to improve the performance of electrode components by designing them to be 3D printed from copper.’

Kirkman is also the recipient of the coveted Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) merit award presented annually to the top student in UKZN’s School of Engineering.

Stubbs, the top performing woman in her class, has enrolled for a Master’s in Biomedical Engineering degree at the University of Cape Town. ‘I always had a dream of integrating human biology, biomechanics and physiology with engineering principles to provide devices or systems to help society,’ said Stubbs. ‘I am very passionate about physical activity as well as science and mathematics, therefore, I am focusing my master’s on sports and rehabilitation engineering.’

Stubbs aims to make inroads in an industry that is relatively male dominated in South Africa and believes that a master’s degree will set her on course for designing systems and products such as artificial organs, artificial devices that replace or assist body parts, machines for diagnosing medical problems or devices that aid clinicians in performing procedures, thereby improving the healthcare system in South Africa.

Naidoo believes that consistency is key. ‘It’s a simple motto but it makes a lot of sense as you cannot accomplish everything in one day,’ he said.

He chose to study Engineering because he was interested in mechanical systems and wanted a career full of exciting opportunities. ‘It was difficult at times but it helps a person mature rapidly as an individual as engineering exposes one to scenarios encountered in the real world,’ he said.

Naidoo’s final-year project entailed designing a cold flow test rig for the SAFFIRE rocket engine being developed by Aerospace Systems Research Group (ASReG). ‘My research was based on the test stand that will be used and designing a pressure vessel to enclose testing fluids during cold flow testing of the rocket engine,’ he explained.

‘I am currently working at eThekwini Municipality as a Mechanical Engineer in Training. I am looking to further my studies part-time once I find my feet in the working environment,’ said Naidoo.

The trio paid tribute to UKZN’s School of Engineering for equipping them with the necessary skills to be conscious and responsive in addressing the needs of society.

Words: Christian Ishimwe

Photographs: Rajesh Jantilal