Q: Tell us about yourself. Who are you and what is your background?
A: I am Jamal Akida (25), a Muslim graduate of the Dar-Es-Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT). I studied Computer Engineering and graduated in the year of study 2019/2020.I have extremely high attention to detail and love the challenges involved in technology (especially computerized systems) no matter how big or small – I also enjoy working as part of a team. Over the past four years, I have attended Industrial Practical Training (Field student) at different organizations where I used my knowledge to be a part in the design and implement software, hardware systems, and network configurations at the Institute of Judicial Administration (IJA) and TONTAN Technologies. Currently, I am a part-time employee at TANATEC ENGINEERING COMPANY as a backend developer (Programmer) where I program backend architectures, deploying micro services on online servers, and writing daemon background services for the server-side.
Q: Tell us about your project. What was the original idea/assignment? What had you worked on before coming to the studio?
A: Milk vending machine is an embedded systems project that sells fresh milk to customers without the intervention of a human operator. The machine is automated in such a way that a coin acceptor works in hand with other sensors and actuators to provide reliable service. Also, the machine has got an android application for remote monitoring of sales, system parameters (level of milk and temperature), and technical faults.
I applied the technology of a vending machine to offer milk selling services so as to counteract the shortcomings of the existing manually operated milk serving systems.
The following were major problems:
No electronic periodic sales report since all the sales are manually recorded into the sales book. The problem arises if the operator intentionally does not record the sale. There is no way for the owner to trace the sales at any instant.
There are no fully automated milk vending machines. The existing milk serving systems are not fully automated since their deployment involves the role of a human operator who assists customers with milk filling into the cup. The operator receives the customer’s coin and input money value into a keypad so that the process could happen. But we see that this is a challenge to modern world technologies since the role of technology is to make sure that customers can get whatever s/he want without the operator’s intervention.
The idea for developing this project came from my IPT Supervisor, Dr.Simbeye. It was initially an idea and I was given a task to do deep research and come up with the accurate structure, operation, and its significance in our community. The only thing that I had worked on before coming to the studio was the structure of the project and circuit simulations on Proteus software.
Q: Please describe the activities conducted in the Design Studio. How did the studio expand on your work?
A: There are a number of activities I conducted in the Design Studio. These include:
- Wiring and Assembling control circuit box
This activity was associated with calculating the actual dimension of the whole circuit, designing laser-cut drawings, cutting the parts, assembling each electronic component, and testing its individual function and integrated function.
- Assembling machine case
This was the final task that involved putting sub-systems to their respective positions inside the machine case. Activities such as drilling, soldering, screwing, and gluing were involved.
Q: What were some challenges you faced? How did you overcome them? AND/OR What did you learn? What was something exciting you learned/saw?
A: There are a number of challenges I faced:
> Assembling control circuit box
It was somehow difficult to come up with a clean circuit box. I had to restructure the wiring several times so that the circuit would be neat for easy troubleshooting in case of fault detection and future modification of the circuit.
> Circuit overload
Tripping of the circuit and shutting off all the power when components drew more electricity than what a circuit can handle. I had to recalculate the total voltage required and replaced the power supply with a one with suitable higher capacity (12v, 10 A).
By working through these problems and building the device, I learned many things. At the end of the project, I gained different skills. Now I know how to:
- use engineering drawing software (SolidWorks) and designing various project parts such as a Tap and Cup holder.
- use a 3D printer and its software.
- use LaserWorks software and laser cut machine to cut different shapes.
- solder electronic components.
The most exciting thing that I learned during project implementation was how to use the laser-cutting machine and 3D printer. They made me know that I can convert my imaginative part into a physical thing using computerized technology.
Q: Where is the project now and what are your plans for the future?
A: My project was shortlisted as one of the best final year projects of my year. The machine is now at DIT waiting to be presented in the National MAKISATU (Mashindano ya Kitaifa ya Sayansi na Teknolojia) competition. Through MAKISATU, I will expose the device to multiple investors.