Growing up was filled with the normal experiences of life. There was nothing really extra-ordinary or out of place, except in the spiritual (which is beyond this write up).
Life was fun, although tasking and challenging, and there was always a reason to be happy in the mix of things. As a child, I developed this early curiosity –even before I became conscious as a being from infancy. I watched vehicles move around as I grew. I saw heavy duty vehicles doing their things, buses, cars, motor cycles, bicycles, etc.
I sorted it out early in life that contacts between vehicle tyres and the ground made movement possible for land-based vehicles. I became inquisitive as to why their engines kept running while they were still stationary. I tried a lot of models in my little mind to explain this without success (failure to find full explanation) It made me more determined, aforiori. Several times, I stumbled on programmes on the media- NTA, FRCN, VON, prints e.t.c – that was able to give a little explanation (bits at a time). I still remember a lecture on gears from an audio medium, either FRCN or VON or one Nigeria government radio house (can’t really recall the particular one). That really helped to indentify why vehicles were able to accelerate by the toggle of a lever.
One very resourceful programme on NTA those days was “Professor Muffet’s Science Workshop” It provided a lot of transparent working models to explain several phenomena on automotive technology. If there was anything I missed on television today, they were similar programmes for our kids. There were also local science programmes on NTA but not as thorough and elaborate as Professor Muffet’s.
While growing up, Engineering was never popular. I only heard of people who only speak good English, wear suit and had nothing to show for their sojourn in the university. I remember in one of our English classes in the secondary school where the teacher quoted a description of Nigerian Engineers as “green grasses in the field”.
This created a bleak picture of Engineering and Engineers in some of us. Looking back now, I would say that is really not it. Daddy was with the medical corps of the Nigeria Army. He admired how doctors appeared and the prestige they command in the community. He wished one of his own would become one.
He sought out a child to groom in that direction and decided to focus on me. He taught me to diagnose ailments and interpret prescriptions. He tried to teach me how to administer injection but somehow that was not to be. I had phobia for blood or human injury. I can’t really tell why I was always sick as a child, and exposure to sick people could worsen my situation- I thought to myself. So becoming a medical doctor was completely out of place.
Peers admired my looks on spectacles. Most of them expected I would become a doctor. In fact; most of my father’s contemporaries still call me Doctor, to this very day. However; along the line, I recalled something that happened earlier. I had this question bothering my mind from childhood. Why do aeroplanes fly?
I stumbled over the answer to this nagging question while studying for my JSSCE. Specifically, it was the Introductory Technology examination. The problem was that land vehicles were able to move because of the dynamic friction between their tyre surfaces with the solid ground. This was not the case with aircraft, which are airborne and had no contacts with the ground. Friction could make them taxi to top speed before take-off but what keeps them in sustain flight. I was never the type to believe in the magic of ‘Oyibo na witch’ .There must be an answer, somehow.
After secondary education while waiting for results I came across this vendor selling vintage books. There were lots of catalogues with books carrying pictures of aeroplanes. Before that, however, I found myself always drawing pictures of aeroplanes and hoping to make one someday. A man got to notice it and asked why I was always drawing aeroplanes. I simply grinned and chuckled it away. He later ended the statement with “it’s like you will do plane for us someday”. As fate would have it, the vendor came along. Since they were old and out of circulation, they were cheap and I was able to buy one.
This catalogue had textbooks carrying pictures of aircrafts. It introduced a particular one as a necessity when one wants to read Aerospace Engineering at Master’s Level but needs to start by studying Mechanical Engineering as a first degree. I concluded that, since aerospace engineering was not available at first degree in the country – as at then, I needed to read Mechanical Engineering.
I later found that any Engineering course could lead someone to study Aerospace Engineering. As time went on, I also discovered that any course one read was capable of bringing such person to pilot a plane.
Looking back, however, I never made a mistake to have studied Mechanical Engineering as my first degree. The course has vistas of application. I later found it finds application in Medicine. Other applications include: Power Generation, Manufacturing, Building Services, Energy Conversion, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (RAC), Robotics and Mechatronics, Off-Shore Mechanics, Oil and Gas, Transportation (bicycles, motor cycles, cars, buses, trains and railways, supermarine and submarine, aeronautics, space and maritime exploration), etc.
About the author
Engr Augustine Eke studied Mechanical Engineering at the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi and Systems Engineering at the Open University of London. He founded the Department of Mechanical Engineering Technology as well as organized all the Departments of Engineering Technology into a School (ie Faculty) at the Nigeria Army Institute of Technology and Environmental Studies (NAITES) which later created the NAUTES.
He is an avid reader, lecturer, and naturally inquisitive. He is a proponent of Nigerian Institution of Systems Engineers (NInSE) and Society for Systems Engineering (SSE). Some accomplished works: Engineering of the 3FO, Debug Analysis of British-made Rocket System, Stability Analysis of Turkish-made Armoured Personnel Carrier and accurately predicting its failure mode without having ever used it, Design and Construction of Parachute System (COREN Project)
His Professional body membership includes COREN, NSE, NIMechE, NInSE, and SSE. Some of the responsibilities held are: President – Engineering CDS Group, NYSC, Fellow – Nigerian Institution of Systems Engineers, General Secretary – NIMechE, Benue Chapter, HoD – Department of Mechanical Engineering Technology, NAITES to mention but few.