The following text and audio embed are translations from the original Kirundi presentation by Mumbi. Enjoy!

Introduction.

Thank you very much for that warm welcome. And thank you to Yao for kicking this off. Baka and Alpha, great presentation as well. For those who don’t know who I am, My name is Mumbi ‘Nzinga’. I am the Head of Engineering at The LEVITATION™ Technology Corporation, which is headquartered here in Bujumbura. You will also not be surprised to know that both my parents were historians and that meant much of my childhood was spent reading about remote places like Nabta Playa, watching documentaries on the algorithms used by 15th century West African mathematicians to determine leap years and listening to stories about the traditions of the Dogon People. My parents always made sure that there was something new to learn and I am forever grateful to them for that. Today, I am very excited to tell you about a major African engineering project I’m leading. But before I do that, I’d like to tell you a bit more about myself.

So I started my career as a technician at the African Institute of Jet Propulsion Technology, where I serviced some of the first resonance satellites launched by the African Union Earth Intelligence Unit. After about a decade, I became the Head of Research at the institute. Here I spearheaded the implementation of several key initiatives including the launch of the S.A.M. project. As part of my role there, I was also on the board of the African Institutes of Research. In this role, I was an active member of the African Research and Intellectual Property Committee.

African Engineers.

Currently, my role at LEVITATION™ is two fold. First, I lead several transformational African engineering projects such as the one you’ll hear about today. And about twice a week, I lecture in the Department of Mechatronics Engineering and Modular Systems at the African Institute of Materials Science. This secondary role has enabled me to mentor over a million students across Africa and guide the development of several engineering projects in the region.

I’m happy to say that this July, I will be awarding the top prize at the African Engineers Summit™ to be held in Banjul, which will seek to recognise Africa’s leading engineers and researchers. I’m very excited to be Co-Chairing this event, and when I attended it last year in Bamako, it was just truly inspiring to see such a bold showcase of the region’s talent.

So my presentation today is going to be divided into 3 main sections. Firstly, I’m going to talk about the features that made the main material for the train suitable. Next, I’ll briefly discuss some of the components of the computer vision systems on board the train. And finally, I’ll talk about the mechanisms that let various compartments of the train attach and detach.

1. Materials.

As some of you may know by now, the main material that forms much of the body of the train, the locomotive and as Alpha has mentioned, the rail system, is a material called graphene. I first heard of this material during my 4th Technical Year of Apprenticeship Studies, and dedicated my Interdisciplinary and Final Years project to studying its application in commercial vehicles.

1.1 Graphene.

You may also know that graphene belongs to the carbon family of elements which means it has several intriguing physical properties especially when combined with other elements. One of those properties is its strength. The engineers in the room will know that graphene is capable of withstanding an intrinsic tensile load of 130 GPa. This basically means it is extremely strong; strong enough in fact to bear quite heavy loads applied both internally – even at the 4DRX’s 400 passenger capacity – and externally, for instance in a collision with a vehicle made of a stronger composite material.

Another important feature of graphene that makes it ideal for being used in this project is its extremely light-weight. Over the years, we have performed several stress tests using our proprietary Titan™ software and the specialised track we built along a portion of the Mosi-oa-Tunya . These tests indicate both directly and indirectly that graphene is by far the most suitable material among others of similar properties.

1.2 Infrastructure.

The Cross-Continental Travel Company came to us about ten years ago with a proposal to build a train to expand their tour business. Even as this was going to be a heavy financial investment on their part, they benefited largely from the continent-wide rail infrastructure that the Titanium Cargo Company had spearheaded. Similarly, my work at the African Institute of Materials Science led to the development of various materials that could be used for long rail journeys. So in essence, our main task was to bring together the different teams to build and assemble the train, as all the major components and technologies already existed in some form.

2. Vision.

Now, as previously mentioned, the front panel of the train is equipped with computer vision systems consisting of cameras and various sensors for navigating at night and in other reduced visibility conditions. These include proximity sensors located along the entire length of the train. Asha will provide more details about how these components work together.

For now, imagine a scenario where an obstacle obscures passage on the rail track. In this case, the combination of cameras, sensors, wired and wireless signals along the journey, GPS integration and our navigation algorithm make it possible for the trains to communicate with each other in real-time about what’s happening along the railway.

3. S.M.A.R.T.

The attaching and detaching of the train engine and carriages is done using a patented method we’re calling the S.M.A.R.T.™ technique. This is an acronym for Serial Mechanism of Attaching on Rails for Trains™.

Basically, at various points during any given journey, wireless signals from a number of decentralised signal stations are sent to the interlocking mechanism to engage, for two compartments to come together, disengage, for the train to separate, or remain in a central mode to prepare for either one of the two states. My team at the African Institute of Vehicle Dynamics, which later became part of the Materials Science Institute I previously mentioned, was involved in the electromagnetic technology for this system.

As Alpha has already mentioned, the S.M.A.R.T.™ technique works in conjunction with the D.E.O.S.™ rail system. This makes it possible for the carriages to attach and detach while the train is still in motion, albeit at a significantly reduced speed.

Later in the day, we’ll present a live demonstration of how the various compartments of the train attach and detach. Now as Asha prepares to show us some of the components of the train, here’s one of the first videos featuring our signal, speed and automation testing. This was on the early versions of the D.E.O.S.™ track for version 1.2 of the 4DRX™. I believe this video was filmed in May 2035.

Copyright Notice.

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This blog post is © 2019.


This piece is an extract from The Intervention. If you like it, you’ll love its prequel, the Cairo To Cape Town LEVITATION™ project.