The Comforts and Hustles in Engineering, Samuel Tendo

As a fresh engineering student at Kyambogo University, I had immense expectations of what the profession of being an engineer offers to those who pursue it. However, as I have continued to take the course in this adventurous journey of engineering, I have come to learn that it is one’s way of thinking, vision and target in life that determines how they will cop-up with the ‘comforts and hustles’ in engineering.

To start with; my first experience as a trainee engineer was during my first-year industrial training at Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) where I was placed in the Planning Section. Being my first field experience, I was ignorant of the technical procedures engineers undergo to ensure that the end-user gets a stable electricity supply.

UETCL Headquarters Nakasero Kampala
While training with UETCL, I came to learn that the power sector in Uganda is sub-divided into three main bodies. That is; Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL), Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) and Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited (UEDCL). UEGCL is concerned with power generation sites (at about 11kV), UETCL then transmits this power over transmission lines (at 33kV-to-400kV) to distribution substations where UEDCL takes over control to extend power to the final consumer at a low voltage (below 33kV).

At UETCL I came to experience a lot of comforts in engineering. Most of the works we performed did not involve hand-to-equipment engagement, rather we frequently used software to troubleshoot faults in power lines as well as designing new power lines as per developing generation stations and end-user demand. Some of the software we used included Power System Simulation for Engineers (PSS/E) and Geographic Information System (GIS) which we used to build, maintain, troubleshoot and locate faults on commissioned power lines.

With PSS/E software, we were able to pre-determine the power to be generated, substation bus-bar base voltages as well as the ratings of the transformers needed to be employed for a given power line.

However, putting aside the fantasies of working with the high voltage company, I as well had an experience of the hustles in working in a low voltage consumer company. As a second-year student, I also had a chance to train with Ntake Bakery and Company Limited a flour milling company located in Nalukolongo, Kampala. In this company, I came to experience the actual hands-on bit of electrical engineering. This was through the small projects I and other trainee engineers were assigned some of which we even undertook without any supervision from the company technicians.

First and foremost, we really had a great experience of working with different types of motors. Ntake Bakery being a company that mills its own flour, the roll-mills, conveyors and elevators to mention but a few were at least each having not less than a motor running them. Some of the motor types we operated on include delta, star and star-delta started motors. One of the most interesting aspects I learnt about motors is that their rotation direction (clockwise or anti-clockwise) can be altered by simply interchanging the supply phases (L1, L2 and L3) at the winding terminals of three-phase motors.

Power supply system at Ntake Bakery and Company Limited

Under some circumstances, conveyor motors failed due to too much load in the conveyor systems. When a motor is started under such overload conditions it may cause its windings to burn-out. So, under such conditions, I and other trainees together with other electricians had to reduce the load in the conveyors so as to reduce the electrical stress on the motor windings. Such ‘hustles’ taught me that an engineer should not only have knowledge in their field of professionalism but also should be able to provide remedies to problems outside their field.

Also as part of my training at Ntake Bakery, I frequently worked on installation and repair of both interiors (fluorescent) and exterior (Light Emitting Diode, LED) lights used at the company. In this, I gained a lot of skills in troubleshooting and detecting faults in the above-mentioned types of lights. To mention some, I learnt that flickering fluorescent tubes are as a result of burnt-out safety-starters or a burnt-out filament in a tube, tubes that don’t light completely are as a result of open-circuits in chokes (a device used to limit the amount of current flowing through a tube’s circuit) and finally, if a new fluorescent tube burns out immediately after installation, this signifies a short-circuit in the choke.

During this training, I came to learn one of the most important aspects in engineering which is; ‘an engineer must be extremely innovative’. This is because while I was taking part in some of the installations, particularly security LED lights, I came to learn that I was to fabricate the lamp supports my-self at the company welding workshop. For this I compliment the staff of Ntake Bakery And Company Limited for allowing me to think of new innovations as well as being developmental in improving the security of the company. In some cases, I even had to do these installations without isolating the cables from their power supply which also called for great care and professionalism.

In the end, the experience, knowledge and skills I gained from training with UETCL and Ntake Bakery have really changed my life and attitude towards engineering and I recommend the University staff to keep up the spirit of allowing students to engage in external training sessions with well-established companies.

May the Almighty God bless Kyambogo University, long live Faculty of Engineering staff members, long live Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department.

Tendo Samuel Jackson (17-U-16923-BEL-PD)

Bachelor of Electrical Engineering

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