June 1, 2019
Ashesi’s first class of Engineering students marked their graduation at our 2019 Commencement in style, earning their place in the university’s history. And despite the high expectations set for them, the Engineering Class of 2019 met and raised the bar some more.
A four-year graduation rate of 91% and 22% of the Cass receiving academic honors puts the Class among some of the strongest in Ashesi’s recent history. 33% of the Engineering Class are also women, establishing a mentorship base for future generations of women looking to study Engineering.
Our Engineering program, developed over three years in consultation with faculty from Arizona State University, Olin College of Engineering, Swarthmore and the University of Waterloo, among others, deepened the culture of innovation and problem-solving on campus. It was funded by $6.2 million in philanthropy from donors worldwide and helped bring Ashesi’s student enrolment to 1000 students.
Throughout their stay on campus, the Engineering Class of 2019 reached into campus resources to tackle problems many of them have experienced first-hand. Working across majors, students leveraged the strength of knowledge within Ashesi faculty and their classmates. Spanning projects to lower the cost of solar power, to award-winning start-ups and business idea, the Class of 2019’s Engineering students have set a high benchmark for other classes to follow.
Facing Everyday Problems, With New Skills and Fresh Perspective
For his senior-year project, for example, Stephan Ofosuhene ’19 developed a new model for an artificial intelligence powered hydroponic farming. In hydroponic farming, farmers can grow crops more efficiently, in nutrient-rich mediums other than soil. Over a year, Stephan developed a machine learning model that automates supply and monitoring of nutrients to crops, requiring little intervention from a farmer. The system is also programmed to automatically track plant PH values, electrical conductivity and atmospheric temperature in real time. The data is then collected and fed into a system, that forecasts optimum plant conditions and provides next steps for farmers to increase crop yields.
Having seen his parents’ farm unable to sustain itself and shutting down due to a low farmhand skill, and the inability to implement right farming strategies, Stephan’s project addressed a personal problem for him.
“The system offers many benefits,” shared Stephan. “It reduces the time necessary for crop production and increases yield and reduces pest attacks on crop growth. Moreover, crops are constantly supplied with nutrients and don’t need to expend their energy growing their roots deep into the soil to search for nutrients. Instead, that energy is pushed upward into more yield and better health.”
Haddijatou Touré ’19 also built her research project around personal experiences. With Berekuso’s unpredictable weather, she would hang her laundry out to dry only to see the rains come down and drench them all while she was in Class. She had not recognized this problem before coming to Ashesi, because at home someone was always around to take clothes off the drying line when rain approached. In an environment where most families cannot afford dryers, she wondered how others in her current situation dried their laundry in unpredictable weather.
And so for her final year project, Haddijatou decided to take on the problem. She ended up designing and building a low-cost electronic drying rack, that could sense rain, and retract into a waterproof cover. Coming from the Gambia on a full scholarship to Ashesi as a Mastercard Foundation Scholar, Haddijatou was intent on keeping the production cost of the rack prototype low, to make it affordable.
Agents of a New Kind of Boldness
The two students represent examples of the ambitious projects that Ashesi’ pioneer Engineering class took on. As they prepare to step out into the world, students in the pioneer Engineering class together with the broader Class of 2019, understand that expectations of them will continue to be high.
“From now on, boldness should no longer be about doing what no one else could ever do, but about doing what you thought you never could,” Class Speaker, Jean Quarcoopome ’19 urged his Class. “It is no longer enough to be different; we must be inwardly transformational and challenge ourselves before we challenge the world. If this continent is going to feel the shake of our step, then we must step out of our comfort zones and become agents of a new kind of boldness. And we must do so the same way we have done everything: together.”
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