Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Christina Rosetti 1830-1894
At Science toProducts Africa Initiative (S2PAfrica), we see technology in terms of products and services that transform the way people live. Engineering is presented as the systematic way to use science and other arts in the deployment of technology. It is therefore a contradiction in terms to have engineering and not have technology. Engineering serves no other purpose but to create technology products, goods and services. And technology, like the wind cannot be seen unless the leaves hang trembling, technology also cannot be seen unless products and services are transformed beyond the level of primitive technology that have always been with us.
It is easy to show that sixty years of tertiary engineering education in Nigeria has not created a concomitant result of products and services in the modern technological sense. Sixty years ago, there were Nigerian owned companies that built railway tracks. Today we are awarding turn-key projects for the same purpose, 80 engineering faculties later! Yet, Federal and State governments as well as private individuals, instead of focusing on the creation of products and services, continue, willy-nilly, to create the same kinds of institutions and do not seem to ponder the fact that the leaves are not hanging trembling in our environment, that there are little innovative products and services to show for our efforts.
S2PAfrica takes the view that there are fundamental causes to this problem. These causes are many. The financial system does not support innovation. The training of our engineers is faulty in its analytical approach. We propose a synthetic approach that first of all emphasizes product creation as the goal of engineering training by exposing engineering students to industrial level design and simulation devices from the outset. They should now begin to see the usefulness of the theory, engineering science and equations solving in terms of creating products scientifically. We propose a Just-in-time theory paradigm that postpones theories such as Finite elements and other numerical solutions we teach them to the context in which product-making requires them. We also attempt to ensure they can see that the only reason why they are learning the theories is that it makes a difference between advanced technology and primitive technology. They can therefore separate technological innovations from craftsmanship.