By Eng. Ambazimana, Honorary Secretary, UIPE Kampala Branch.

Andrew AmbazimanaRalph J. Smith, Emeritus Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, California, and Author of “ENGINEERING AS A CAREER”, defined Engineering as the application of science to the optimum conversion of the resources of nature to the uses of humankind.

The field of engineering is also defined by  the Engineers Council for Professional Development in the United States, as the creative application of “scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property.

The term engineering is derived from the Latin words ingenium, meaning “cleverness” and ingeniare, meaning “to contrive, devise”. It is not surprising that engineers have a hand on both the ancient and modern wonders of the world from the Pyramids of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the Great Wall of China.

 In the modern era, engineers continue to advance social and economic developments through planning and implementation of infrastructure projects. Local examples of such projects include the Isimba Hydropower station, which was commissioned in March 2019, the ongoing Karuma Hydropower Project, Kampala-Entebbe Expressway, the ongoing Kampala Flyover project, the new Nile Bridge in Jinja, Kabaale International Airport Project and various building projects that have changed the skyline of Kampala.

From my childhood days, while in primary and lower secondary school, I had always dreamt of becoming a medical doctor. The dream was cut short when I was denied the chance to study Biology at A-Level in Ntare School, Mbarara District, Uganda, because I did not score a distinction in the subject. I can, therefore, say my ambition to become an engineer began in Senior Secondary 5 at Ntare School. Initially my preference was Electrical Engineering, but a career guidance session facilitated by Silver Byarugaba, an old boy and then a senior official at Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA) made me change my mind and I ended up giving Bsc. Civil Engineering as my first choice.

I started practicing civil engineering in 2010 before my graduation and have since worked both in the private and public sectors working for contractors, public service and implementing agencies on several projects. I have had an opportunity to work with the best brains not only in Uganda but also all over the world.

A case in point is the construction of the Isimba Dam on River Nile. A panel of experts from across the globe were always advising the implementing agency, Uganda Electricity Generation
Company Limited (UEGCL) on technical and quality related issues on the project. The knowledge and experience obtained from these interactions can never be underestimated. Jordan B. Peterson, a professor of psychology, University of Toronto, Canada, once said that experience is the best teacher, and the worst experience teaches the best lessons.

Isimba Hydropower Dam ConstructionWhen I look at photos, beginning from the first excavation of Isimba Dam, the first concrete pour, up to the now completed facility generatingIsimba Hydropower Dam completed 183MW of power, I must give it up to the brains behind this mega project. But like most projects, especially public ones, it was not spared criticisms.

It is bad enough to receive valid criticisms, but it is no fun to be on the receiving end of unwarranted criticisms, certainly from people who have no idea about engineering and its associated issues. Such criticisms make engineers seem to be the most underrated. One wonders why. 

One of the best explanations was given many years ago by the 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover, at the expense of doctors’ and lawyers’ professions. He said, “The great liability of the engineer compared to men of other professions is that his works are out in the open where all can see them. His acts, step by step, are in hard substance. He cannot bury his mistakes in the grave like the doctors. He cannot argue them into thin air or blame the judge like the lawyers.”

On March 4th, 1968, representatives of 50 scientific and technical associations from all over the world met under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris to establish the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO), whose charter as an international, non-governmental organization is to unite multidisciplinary engineering associations throughout the world. The body brings together close to 30 million engineers working across the globe.

Since March 4th is the anniversary of WFEO, it was proclaimed by UNESCO as World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development at its 40th General Conference in 2019. Since 2020, it is celebrated worldwide each year. The day offers an opportunity to highlight engineers and engineering’s achievements in our modern world and to improve public understanding of why and how engineering and technology are central to modern life and for sustainable development.

Uganda, through Uganda Institution of Professional Engineers and Engineers Registration Board, joined the rest of the world to celebrate the day whose theme is “ENGINEERING FOR A HEALTHY PLANET”.

I joined the rest of the world to celebrate and appreciate the work done by engineers without which this world would not be what it is today.