From Belmopan, Belize, to Taiwan, one of the largest developers of science and technology: this is Wani’s journey to becoming a mechanical engineer and winning the HIWIN Thesis Award in Taiwan, which included a cash prize of over 30,000 USD.
After graduating in 2011 from the Belmopan Comprehensive High School, Wani completed an Associate’s degree in Chemistry and Mathematics at the University of Belize. Science and mathematics had sparked Wani’s interest at a young age. He eventually found his niche and decided to pursue a career in mechanical engineering.
In 2013, Wani received a scholarship from the International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF) to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Kun Shan University in Taiwan. He then completed a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the same university within a year, and graduated in 2017. While enrolled in the mechanical engineering master’s program, Wani began pursuing a Master’s degree in Energy Engineering at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan which he’s expected to complete this year.
With the assistance of his advisor, Wani registered for the HIWIN Thesis Award competition in 2017. In 2004, Shangyin Technology Co., Ltd, a manufacturer of machines parts, established the award. Included in the winning prize is a fully funded trip to the Japan International Machine Tool Fair (JIMTOF), one of the largest exhibitions in the world for cutting-edge machine tools and inventions. Wani will be attending the fair in 2020.
Winning the HIWIN Thesis award was a rewarding achievement for Wani after months of dedication and diligence. He described the different stages in the competition to us. In the first stage, participants submitted their theses for two phases of peer reviews. Twenty-four finalists were then chosen to move on to the second stage and orally defend their theses to a judging panel of eleven renowned professors. A thesis is a statement conveying a theory or idea, and is typically discussed and documented with findings from personal research. In our interview with Wani, he explained that his thesis was based on problems that arise with the manufacturing of large amounts of plastic machine parts in a short amount of time through a process called plastic injection moulding. In this process, shapes are formed by injecting the molten material into a mold that is shaped like the end product. During the injection moulding process, random defects in the parts can result when a large quantity of parts is being manufactured. Presently, operators are required to oversee the manufacturing process and ensure that the highest quality of parts is used for commercial purposes. In his thesis, Wani’s goal is to use an artificial mechanism that would eliminate the need for an operator to be present. This mechanism would analyse the vibrations of a machine during its operation and predict the weight and quality of the parts produced.
Wani’s passion for machine learning and artificial intelligence has brought him success thus far. He plans to continue conducting research in Taiwan for a few years then return to Belize to improve the industrial production sector. We were thrilled to know more about Wani. Below he tells us about his experience and why he chose to study in Taiwan.
When did you first decide that you wanted to become an engineer? What motivated you to make this decision?
Ever since I was a child, I had a passion for science and mathematics. As I grew older, I gradually gravitated towards physical sciences such as chemistry and physics. However, with the guidance of my family I opted to major in mechanical engineering at the bachelor level. I chose mechanical engineering because I believed it was a practical field of study and more importantly, essential for the technological development of Belize.
What was a rewarding and fulfilling experience you’ve had along your journey studying mechanical engineering?
There have been many. Apart from winning the HIWIN thesis award, I would say my most fulfilling and rewarding experience was getting the opportunity to attend a tribology* conference in Taipei. During this conference I got the opportunity to both present and listen to experts from across the world in the field of lubrication and tribology. This conference proved to be an eye opener for me as I witnessed ground breaking research that improved classical tribological systems through the use of artificial intelligence.
Why did you choose to study in Taiwan?
Presently there is no tertiary institution in Belize that provides a bachelor’s degree in the field of mechanical engineering. For that reason, I had to explore educational opportunities in the wider world. I specifically chose Taiwan for two main reasons. My primary reason was that Taiwan is one of the global leaders for technological research and development. My second reason was driven by funding. Given the established diplomatic relationship between Taiwan and Belize, I was fortunate to be one of the 2013 recipients of a 4-year Taiwan ICDF scholarship.
Was it difficult to adjust to the culture?
Every cultural adjustment has its challenges. Taiwan has its unique culture, practices and beliefs, some like and others unlike what I am familiar with in Belize. One critical issue of similarity is the general belief and culture of respect and love. For this reason, I had no problem adjusting to life in Taiwan. I am grateful that the locals who I have had the pleasure of meeting here, received me with warm and welcoming arms. Moreover, Taiwan is ranked as one of the safest countries in the world. For this reason, I was able to live and study in Taiwan without having to fear for my safety.
What inspired your thesis/research?
Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), is strong on the concept that the future of industrial production lies in the development of smart machines (Industry 4.0). For this reason, they have distributed substantial funding to the top universities across Taiwan in order to cultivate artificial intelligence (AI) engineers who are trained to integrate machine learning algorithms with industrial applications. I was fortunate to be a part of a research team that had received funding from MOST, to develop intelligent technology for the plastic injection moulding industry. Within this group I was tasked with the subproject of artificially monitoring the quality of each moulded plastic part through the use of vibrational analysis.
What are your professional goals?
My short-term goal is to gather some years of Research & Development work experience in the field of machine learning and artificial intelligence here in Taiwan. However, my ultimate goal is to return to Belize and contribute to improving the efficiency of industrial production in the country.
What advice would you give to young aspiring engineers from the Caribbean?
I would advise young aspiring engineers to make a special effort to become versed in a computer programming language such as python, regardless of their field of engineering. Computer programming provides a bridge to convert their future academic research into a useful industrial or commercial application.
*Tribology is the study of interacting surfaces in motion.