Ndubuisi Ekekwe is undoubtedly a man that has carved a niche for himself in the world of electronic development, though he has a soaring popularity in United States, few knew about this genius in this part of the world. In this interview with SADIQ ABDULLATEEF, he lays it bare:
Who is Ndubuisi Ekekwe?
Ndubuisi Ekekwe was born in Ovim, Abia state. He attended Secondary Technical School, Ovim where he passed the SSCE/WASC with 8 distinctions including A2 in Further Mathematics and set his school all-time best result in that examination. Ndubuisi was so gifted that while in SS1, he self-prepared himself for none-science subjects and passed them with distinctions in GCE. He continued in school because of his passion for sciences. He obtained bachelor in engineering degree from Federal University of Technology, Owerri as the best student in the department of electrical & computer engineering with specialization in electronics/computer engineering in 1998.
He holds four masters degrees: MBA (University of Calabar), MTech (Federal University of Technology, Akure), Ms (Tuskegee University, USA), MSE (Johns Hopkins University, USA) and a doctorate in management from St. Clements University. He will graduate with PhD in Electrical & Computer Engineering specializing in microelectronics & medical robotics engineering, at the Johns Hopkins University, USA in March 2009. His research involves making integrated circuits with applications on alternative energies, medical robotics, biomedical systems and neuromorphics-an area that involves creating artificial human organs like retinas, cochlea and brain.
Ndubuisi began his doctorate in the Johns Hopkins University, USA after completing his Ms at Tuskegee University, USA with a CGPA of 4/4 in electrical engineering. That academic brilliance gave him the prestigious United States ERC/National Science Foundation and Johns Hopkins University fellowships. During his masters, he received the United States EMCWA scholarship and worked on the NASA’s Jet Propulsion project that focused on distribution of high frequency in the space environment. He has received many awards including the United Kingdom Congress on Computer Assisted Surgery and nomination for the Johns Hopkins Institutions Diversity Recognition Award. In June 2007, the Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering awarded him the SAMSTAG fellowship for ‘outstanding performance by a graduate student’.
Ndubuisi is certified in many key technologies and has published many technical papers in leading journals and conferences. His working experiences include NNPC and Diamond Bank. He holds two pending patents on microelectronics and has consulted for universities, World Bank, and firms. He also holds visiting appointments in two African universities and presently the principal investigator of emerging Africa’s first microelectronics institute. He is attending the African Union congress in Kenya this March and will join a leading US semiconductor firm as a team shaping the future of computing.
Ndubuisi is the Founder/President of African Institution of Technology. He is selected for inclusion in the Marquis Who’s Who in America (2010 edition) and Strathmore’s Who’s Who Worldwide (2009). His first book, Nanotechnology and Microelectronics: Global Diffusion, Economics and Policy, by IGI Global, USA will be ready early next year.
What is http://www.afrit.org?
Afrit stands for African Institution of Technology. Our mission is to provide practical educational support, enable technology policies, and facilitate bottom-up creative technology diffusion in African economies. My vision on this organization is simply to provide support to tertiary institutions interested in introducing cutting edge programs in their curricula. We understand that many African schools do not have the human skills to properly educate their students on these areas. What we do is to work with these institutions to develop the courses, lab manuals and necessary experiments that will facilitate practical academic experiences for the students. We do not charge for our services; they are free and open to all institutions in Africa. We focus mainly on microelectronics, semiconductors, computing (hardware), and robotics. We also source for textbooks from Western publishers and donate to schools. These books are usually technical textbooks. We have members across Europe, Canada and USA.
Another important area of our work is provision of computer aided design (CAD) tools. CAD tools are software programs created to facilitate design and automation in science and engineering. They are very expensive to acquire and license and certainly beyond the reach of our schools. However, even in the United States, schools do not buy some of them from their vendors or manufacturers. The companies simply donate them as part of their strategies to ensure that students get used to their products. Afrit has written many of these companies and they are simply ready to help our schools. For the really cheap CAD, they give us the permission to use them in teaching. These are the activities of Afrit. When a school needs a CAD, we can help them get free license for some of them for their educational and research needs.
Afrit has also worked with foreign partners to enable us fabricate integrated circuits designed by students in Africa. For instance, if a student designs integrated circuits (or chips) for camera, brain interface, cell phone, calculator, etc, we have the capacities to fabricate those chips and send back to the student for testing. The goal is to help our students experience the complete design cycle: from design to testing.
What are the aims and objectives of http://www.afrit.org?
Our major objective is to help African nations, especially Nigeria, to transfer and diffuse cutting edge technologies like microelectronics and nanotechnology. We believe so much that the hope of Africa will be by creating knowledge and training armies of knowledge workers towards diversifying our mineral- or hydrocarbon-based economies. Based on this motivation, we work to create awareness on the need to focus on these technologies and not just information technology (IT). Many African governments have IT policy and no technology policy; in short across African many people think that IT is synonymous with technology. For us, we want to push the notion that IT, though a great technology, is not the only technology. Without microelectronics, there will be no IT as the computers must be designed before we can experience the IT. Fortunately, the wealth comes from microelectronics and IT design and not the consumption as we presently have in Nigeria. We consume IT as we do not create it. By consuming IT, we waste lots of resources that would have been saved if we can develop some of the IT infrastructures. Microelectronics is the bedrock to making routers, switches, computers , etc as it is the engine of modern commerce that continues to revolutionize all aspects of our lives. We have developed what we call Afrit-model to diffuse microelectronics in Africa.
To realize these goals, we focus on three constituents: governments, schools and small and medium enterprises (SME). We help schools improve their programs. For governments, we provide experience to help them develop policies on technology transfer for these technologies. For SME, we help them identify areas where they can contribute towards facilitating the diffusion of microelectronics. For instance, we note that the computer business center model was very successful in advancing IT in Nigeria. We can create a program that can help graduates to start programming microprocessors and FPGA instead of wasting time on computers composing 419 emails.
As we do these, we connect Nigerian students to scholarship opportunities; give our schools information on grants, provide collaboration linkages with foreign schools.
What are Afrit challenges and success?
Our major challenge is simply reaching our audience: schools, small and medium enterprises, and governments. For the schools, we have made attempts in the past to send CDs containing the CAD tools, but without our presence, we noticed that some of the schools were unable to properly use them. The challenge is having the time to train at least the teachers on the software as they apply to IC or chip design. For governments, Afrit is truly committed to assist them develop infrastructures like semiconductor institutes that will become the bedrock to diffuse this technology. Also, being students, it is natural that we do not have enough funding for travel we make. However, since our organization does not distribute hardware, rather, ideas, we try to cope. When we ask a firm to send us their tools to help schools educate, it does not cost us anything, except time. One area we would have made more impacts if we have money is buying development boards and donating to schools. Some of these boards cost less than $20 in US and can add values to education. The same goes with biomorphic robots, which go for $36 and can help students understand how to design systems that mimic nature and push human towards immortality.
We have had successes across the continent. We are working on projects with African Union, World Bank, Nigerian universities, and other African schools. I hold visiting appointments in some of these schools. We have attended conferences in Hungary, Canada, many cities in the US and have CAD licenses to train with. I will be going to one in Kenya next month organized by African Union. Our publication is also extensive. We are working on two books right now. One is focusing on how technology will be used to turn brain drain into brain gain. In other words, I do not need to live in Nigeria to make contributions in Nigeria. While in the US, I can continue to advance my skills and using the right mix of technology, can help my nation. Afrit is also working on a project that will offer the blueprint on how Telepresence can be deployed in Africa. Yes, having the capacity to teach at Bayero University from my house in the United States. We want to see that schools have these facilities for collaborations. We have helped universities in Nigeria prepared international grants to foreign agencies to meet the best standards. While it may not be wise to give names of schools, we have developed microelectronics curricula for many universities across Africa.
How do you intend to overcome those challenges?
Simply, by reaching schools, small businesses and governments and telling them what we can offer to them. That is why we appreciate this exposure Triumph newspaper is giving us. Thank you very much. We want to see relationships from schools in the Northern part of Nigeria. We are yet to have a project from this region. We missed an opportunity to work with one of the schools in the North few years ago. The period we planned to arrive, lecturers started strike and it was cancelled.