An aspiring industrial Mechanical Engineering alumnus, Kimendren Gounden, believes in making a meaningful contribution in the field of Engineering. He now finds himself in a fortunate position to integrate his theoretical and practical knowledge into the world of work.
Gounden currently holds a National Diploma in Mechanical Engineering and a Bachelor of Technology degree in Mechanical Engineering, having been working in the industry as a Junior Plant Development Engineer.
Gounden is grateful for the opportunities the Durban University of Technology (DUT) has given him, especially the opportunity to work with the innobiz DUT Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation with regards to his research work and innovation.
He attended the annual EDHE Lekgotla in Eastern Cape, Gqeberha, a gathering of leaders in entrepreneurship and like-minded individuals. This was to highlight the importance of commercialisation of research by academics, in addition to encourage student entrepreneurs to contribute to the economy by taking their products and services that they offer to the market.
“I have achieved a certificate for a business start-up training which has prepared me for the annual EDHE Entrepreneurship intervarsity competition 2022 which was held at the Premier Hotel in Durban,” he said.
He then talks about his academic journey and how he plays a role in sustainable development.
Gounden explained that his article for his first paper was published in the MDPI Earth Journal based in Switzerland. Thereafter, he was invited to contribute an overview of the “Threat to Sustainability” to the MDPI Encyclopaedia.
“The editorial board members believed that it would be beneficial to highlight my paper in the MDPI Encyclopedia to alert South Africa and the world of a possible catastrophe in the future,” said Gounden elatedly.
He had a lifetime opportunity to present part of his paper at the Bridging Ages International Conference held in Turkey, Giresun, last year in 2022. The conference centred around a powerful time travel method that takes note of past experiences of important topics, examines current challenges, and provide future solutions with local learning sites around schools or in the community.
“I presented in one of the themes of Environment, Water use, Climate, Biodiversity and Life, which was related to my field of study. This focused on how the time travel method can be used to make children and adults aware of the four emerging global crises that needs urgent attention as well as highlighting how engineering can play a role in achieving sustainability,” he said.
His paper on A Perspective on Four Emerging Threats to Sustainability and Sustainable Development discusses four emerging threats to sustainability that has been identified in South Africa.
“The four threats identified is plastic pollution, the high rate of unemployment, the lack of affordable housing and climate change which poses a great danger to the environment, society and the future generation to follow,” said Gounden.
He proffered that people are living in unprecedented times, and the world has been forced to react to many significant threats such as pollution, unemployment, shortage of affordable housing, climate change, poverty, diseases, global warming, and political, religious and food security.
“These global threats have led to lower living standards for most people. However, I examined all the threats, gaining a better understanding of these four global issues which also affect South Africa currently, and which requires taking immediate action, and that only by taking action now with the utmost priority can we secure our future,” stressed Gounden.
He further relayed that it has been highlighted worldwide that unimaginable damage to the planet will occur if these emerging global problems are not given sufficient attention.
Gounden also had the great opportunity to share his thoughts on his paper, A Perspective on Four Emerging Threats to Sustainability and Sustainable Development; at a conference on Sustainable Built Environments in Grabouw, Western Cape and shared some of his ideas with the various delegates.
“This conference highlighted many aspects of sustainability and addressed how we tackle the negative impacts of the construction industry on our planet. Practical and innovative ways of design, sustainable solutions and practices were discussed. This conference assisted in writing the paper on a perspective to threats to sustainability,” he said.
He further commented on the four disturbing aspects which were:
- The amount of unmanaged plastic waste entering the environment, particularly the ocean, which has reached crisis level.
- The growing population of more educated and urbanised youth in South Africa who are hampered by finding a few jobs.
- The problem of inadequate or unaffordable housing has reached crisis proportions locally and globally.
- Climate change and its consequences such as flooding, drastic rise in temperature around the world have become one of the biggest challenges to date, which has been addressed in his paper.
“Through research and development, we are now able to propose alternative building materials which will have positive impacts on the four identified crises mentioned. Engineering is vast and can now play a vital role in addressing major societal issues we face today. The proposition of utilising plastic waste to manufacture a recycled plastic composite material for the building and construction industry has been showing potential and promising results,” he said.
Gounden commented that eco-friendly material that is being proposed will help reduce plastic pollution since it will be recycled into building products (such as plastic sand bricks), reduce the high unemployment rate by providing jobs in the informal sector such as waste pickers and sorters as well as formal industry in the form of machine operators.
“This will also help to provide more affordable housing products since the materials can be sourced at a reduced cost. Lastly, this will help reduce climate change by using greener recycled materials as opposed to traditional cement bricks since cement is one of the highest emitters of GHG emissions. This will also reduce the air pollution caused by the burning and curing of clay bricks at elevated temperatures at around 1000 degrees celsius,” he explained.
His ultimate aim is to leave an indelible impression that will have a broad-based benefit to the global economy and his career goals include becoming a professional Mechanical Engineer.
He is currently working on two more manuscripts which will be published soon. The second one is titled “Reconsidering South Africa’s approach towards waste pickers within a “social integration framework”.
“It focuses clearly on the role of waste pickers whilst living in poverty, have for decades played a significant role towards social, economic, and environmental benefits more especially towards sustainable development goals in developing nations. In South Africa, usually unemployed people resort to picking in order to earn a living and typically do so under unhealthy and unsafe conditions,” he said.
His third paper is an experimental paper documenting his practical and laboratory tests which has been conducted during the last year on the feasibility of using HDPE in plastic brick manufacturing.
Gounden has shared that being part of DUT has prepared him for the working world and the environment.
“I should expect going into the industry. It has given me a combination of practical and theoretical knowledge which I am now able to use in any sector that I am placed in. Throughout my journey at DUT being a student, in-service-trainee, researcher and advisor, I have broadened my communication, leadership, interpersonal, resilience, critical thinking and problem solving skills just to mention a few,” he said.
Gounden conveyed that as an engineer, it is important to possess such skills as well as being diverse and innovative in a high pace environment.
“I have been to a writing retreat camp in Pietermaritzburg in the Midlands which helped me prepare an article which has been published in the MDPI Journal based in Switzerland. My supervisors have also guided me regarding the different tests and how they must be commended,” he said.
Going forward, Gounden plans to complete his Master’s Degree and finally walk the stage for the first time, since COVID-19 took away that chance for his previous two qualifications.
He is also looking at taking his research to the market and meeting possible investors so that many more people can benefit from this research.
“I am also seeking to become a candidate with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA). If the opportunity arises, I may consider going back to the industry soon. I want to continue my career in mechanical engineering which is one of the most interesting careers to follow as it offers a variety of opportunities for mechanical engineers to branch into,” he expressed.
Gounden’s advice to first-year students at DUT is to be passionate and have a positive outlook about their chosen careers.
“Having a positive mindset is very powerful because it means that you approach negative news or stressful situations with a positive outlook. This field requires resilience since it is a challenging yet a rewarding career path. It allows one to branch off into different streams of engineering. I found that networking with other successful students helped me to think differently and critically. There is no limitation as to what one can achieve, so remember the power is in your hands,” he said.
Pictured: Kimendren Gounden