Vertically Integrated Project comes to UP

Refilwe Mofokeng

Vertically Integrated Project (VIP) is a new initiative that focuses on innovation, research and development. The initiative is divided into two micro projects, Campus Mobility and Wispeco Aluminium which are being piloted in EBIT in 2018.

Senior lecturer and coordinator for Vertically Integrated Projects, Dr Nadia Viljoen informed Perdeby that UP is collaborating with Georgia Tech to be the first university in Africa to implement the programme.

Viljoen said, “The VIP programme was birthed from an educational need. The learning that takes place on such multidisciplinary, vertically integrated teams is very intense, yet totally different from the type of learning experienced in a lecture or a practical. It is learn-by-doing in the most basic sense of the phrase. Within EBIT an added benefit is that students can use the hours spent in the VIP teams as practical training hours as required by some degrees. The VIP programme not only enhances the learning experience, but it better prepares graduates for the working world. To top it all off, students can earn some very valuable experience to add to their CVs. “

According to Viljoen, so far students have not encountered any challenges as the project is still new. Instead there has been many more students who have applied than what they could accommodate in the first two pilot teams. She said that this is obviously a good problem to have so they are working on recruiting more staff champions to kick-start more teams next semester.

Second year Industrial Engineering student, Nkosinathi Mahlangu explained that the two teams are multidisciplinary and consist of both undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Mahlangu continued to say that, “Campus Mobility’s main goal is to try and improve the transport infrastructure for students and staff members of the university. The role of the students is in the Research & Development (R&D) context. They are expected to gain a better understanding of specific topics in their respective disciplines, as well as come up with new ideas, systems or processes that will assist in moving the project forward.”

Nkosinathi added that not only would they gain valuable skills from their supervisors, Prof. Johan Joubert (Campus Mobility), Roland Rohrs (Wispeco Aluminium) and the project co-ordinator Dr. Nadia Viljoen, but they would get to use the acquired skills to contribute to the university’s research and development community. They will also learn to work with other disciplines, gain experience, get exposure and assist the faulty and graduate students with R&D issued in their areas of expertise.

Mahlangu explained that he joined Campus Mobility because public transport is his main source of transport and like most people he cringes at the thought of transport efficiency. So seeing that he is an Industrial Engineering student, he always sees the opportunity to improve systems and he believes that the programme will provide him with a great platform to do so.

Kumesh Dayal, who is also a second year engineering student and a member of the Wispeco Aluminium team, elaborated, “The programme assists students with gaining experience, exposure to real-life industries and how they work, as well as credit for practical hours through participation. Students get the opportunity to gain understanding about R&D processes, learn about topics relating to the field as well as work with others in the respective fields of study. The projects assist with developing ideas and attempting to create systems and processes as well as to be an active member of the university and research community.”


Photo: Nirvana Govender

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