Trainees driving innovation at NamPower

By Confidente Reporter

SEM Mathews (22) and Juan Pete Compaan (22) are two fourth-year Electrical General students at NamPower’s Vocational Training Centre, and are using the passion they have for their trade to create a technologically-smart NamPower.

The two are now at the forefront of research and development for the implementation of automated lighting for NamPower buildings, which began when both Mathews and Compaan took part in the World Skills Namibia in April 2019, a national competition that allows technical institutions and individuals to test their skills proficiency against peers in the same trade.

A year later, and with the encouragement of their instructor Piet Viviers Viviers, the duo participated in the competition under the category Electrical Installations.

Mathews scooped first prize while Compaan came second against competitors from different Vocational Training Centres, as a result the two received 18-week training in building automation in South Africa.

“We first came to know of the World Skills Competition in 2018 when we were still Level 2 trainees. Our instructor, Mr Piet Viviers, told us about this competition where he had also attended as an expert in Electrical Installation, which included KNX (Building Automation) and Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). He then further told us that the normal electrical installation that we are trained to do at the training centre can actually be converted into an automated installation, and that’s when our curiosity and intrigue for automation was born,” said Mathews.

The 18-week additional training they received in South Africa produced an even greater love for building automation and inspired the duo to gain as much knowledge in the art, in anticipation of one day implementing company-wide automated lighting to help NamPower substantially decrease maintenance costs through energy saving, with KNX.

KNX uses infra-red sensors that detect body heat and would therefore automatically switch off lighting if there is no body heat detected, and on – when body heat is detected. This technology is a secure way to ensure that lights in unoccupied offices are turned off, thus saving electricity and ultimately, millions of dollars yearly.

The duo are also the only two in Southern Africa to complete and obtain a qualification in advance KNX.

KNX is an open standard for commercial and domestic building automation.

In support of her students (Mathews and Compaan), Mercy Situmbeko, Head: NamPower Vocational Training Centre & Education, Training and Development (ETD), approached NamPower’s executive management with a request to automate the NamPower head office and other NamPower buildings.

The request was approved. However, due to budgetary constraints and other factors, the project has been put on hold for 2020 and is anticipated to kick off in 2021 starting with the NamPower Training Centre’s building.

It is against this background that the ETD Section has put up panels for Mathews and Compaan to continue practicing, while teaching other trainees, while at the same time, ETD plans to further invest in the two and also plans to train them to be KNX accredited trainers, enabling them to train and accredit other trainees and employees, rather than having to send them to the only South African institute accredited to train KNX accredited by KNX Belgium.