Embracing the Possibilities on your Engineering Journey

An undergraduate engineering degree is invaluable as it provides a launchpad to multiple careers including several technology industries, banking and finance and even law (as a patent attorney).On receiving an engineering degree, you can expect to improve your numeracy and logical thinking skills and to have developed a solid work ethic which provides a good foundation for a global career. There are a few things that you should think about as you go through your undergraduate career:


Do not be afraid of difficult material: The material taught during an engineering degree can sometimes be very abstract and difficult. However, these concepts form the foundation of a good engineering education and typically have very practical applications. Most importantly, do not hesitate to get help from your professors, teaching assistants, and other students. At the electrical engineering department of Obafemi Awolowo University, there was a dreaded course in electromagnetics taught by a professor with one of the most rigorous standards in the department. Passing his examinations required a fundamental understanding and basic applications of the principles of the subject and unfortunately, he was universally reviled by students for his difficult examinations. Interestingly, in retrospect, this course turned out to be one of the few that taught me the use of theoretical concepts in the solution of practical engineering problems. Years later, it also set me up such that electromagnetics was one of the easiest subjects I had to deal with during my post-graduate work at Stanford University. This simply goes to show that some level of difficulty initially can prepare you for impact on any stage.


Develop your inquisitiveness, curiosity, and your ability to dream: Engineering is typically seen as a cold, hard subject. However, on the global stage, success in engineering requires marrying the hard facts of engineering and physics, especially for industries like space exploration and car manufacturing, to soft skills like inquisitiveness, curiosity, and the ability to dream. The current state of technology has shown us that this integration results in the creation of industries and applications that have revolutionized the world. It certainly requires a curiosity about what the status quo is, an ability to dream about what could be, and then applying what you have learned and sometimes, newly discovered knowledge, in the pursuit of that goal.


Prepare for Life long Learning: What is known as best knowledge, tools and practice is constantly changing, and requires that the forward march of knowledge remains inexorable. Some years ago, the slide rule was the state-of-the art computational device while today, the use of computers is widespread. If an engineering graduate from the slide rule era has not evolved over time, they would be obsolete and their skills out of demand with no ability to contribute today. This implies that beyond just learning the material that is taught, any student today should also be focused on understanding how they learn best in preparation that the degree is just the beginning. Identifying yourself as an auditory, visual, kinesthetic, or reading/writing learner will be invaluable to understanding how to plan for lifelong learning on any subject. Also, deciding whether you need a structured learning environment or a more unstructured, apprenticeship or on-the-job type learning is important.


Understand Theory, Practice and Design: Typically, at the start of your degree, the focus is on the fundamentals which should be quite theoretical with laboratories to test the theories. This will give you the tools, language and building blocks to be able to understand and build any ideas/designs that you have later on. As time goes on, the focus should shift to more design, and practice-based courses where you should be able to link the fundamentals to the practical problems that either have been or need to be solved. A good set of seminars from industry on problems that have been solved and how they were solved and on open problems will round out your engineering education.  Having a good understanding of theory, applicability of the theory to practice, solved and open problems and design rules to assist in solving problems will ensure that you have good foundational engineering training. 


Expect Intra- and Inter-disciplinary Collaboration: Finally, the need for collaboration cannot be overemphasized. Engineering is a collaborative profession. The days of a single engineer producing anything of scale are behind us. It is necessary to have a good set of peers both within and outside the engineering departments. The ones within your department will ensure that you understand the fundamental principles of engineering while the ones outside your department will ensure that you have a well-rounded view. Many a start-up with great technology has gone to the grave because they did not have good marketing or good people leadership. Collaboration is essential.


Growing up, I read a lot of books; on average, one every single day during the holidays. There was a frustration in sourcing the novels and in carrying them around. At that time, I had a fantasy of a device that was as thin as a sheet of paper and had access to any book I wanted, especially for books such as trilogies. Today, this is a billion-dollar business by Amazon with the Kindle. It requires the internet technology for access, display technology for the kindle device, business management to get copyright access to the books, finance skills to facilitate payment, a good user interface, micro-electronics to build the device, and marketing to ensure that there is a business. This is the power of one person’s dream and the multi-disciplinary nature of engineering. As an engineering student, always remember that you have the ability to dream, and you have the tools to make those dreams come true.


About the AUTHOR

Dr. Kome Oteri has a Wireless Communications Ph.D. in the communications and cellular industries with experience in research and product development of 5G, 4G, 3G, 802.11, and 802.16 radio access technologies. He also has expertise in both product implementation and research. His duties have included inventing, implementing, simulating, and testing advanced wireless baseband signal processing and wireless algorithms in software, on wireless baseband processors, and in collaboration with ASIC engineers. His expertise also includes serving as a researcher and delegate to wireless standards bodies such as 3GPP for NR/LTE development and IEEE for WiFi development. He has academic experience as an adjunct assistant professor at UT Austin and a research/teaching assistant at Stanford University. Specialties: 3GPP NR (Rel 15/16), 3GPP LTE/LTE-A (Rel 8/9/10 and beyond), 3G (WCDMA/HSPA), WiFi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ah/ax/ay/FD TIG/ EHT/be, WiMax (802.16e) and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL).

Thank you!

Big thanks to all our attendees, competitors,  judges, corporate and individual sponsors for making the first S2P Engineering Design Competition a success.

Huge congratulations to our 10 finalists and to team  Koye Hydro who emerged ahead of over 40 teams as the Winner of the S2PAfrica EDC 2022, taking home $10,000 IDRC grand prize and $2000 from Cummins West Africa, to fund the development of their project as well as teams KeyTrick and Improved Charcoal Stove came in second and third respectively.

A new bar has been set and we can’t wait for EDC 2023.