THE STAND-OFF



By Makokha Michael Simiyu.

In the recent past, there have been protests by engineering students at diverse institutions in our country, the bone of contention being the nonaccreditation of their engineering programmes by the Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK), the body legally mandated to regulate the engineering industry in Kenya by virtue of the Engineers Act (2012); even some court cases have been lodged over the same. The EBK cited some reasons for its refusal to accredit, and some of them were clearly valid, such as degree segmentation,inadequate teaching staff staff and inadequate laboratories. In some cases however, it would appear that the EBK sits in a time warp, refusing to acknowledge the evolution that the field of engineering has undergone over the years; one such is the case of Geospatial Engineering.

What is engineering?
Engineering is most generally defined as the application of the principles of mathematics and science principles to solve societal problems. This solution often involves the design, evaluation construction testing, modification, installation and maintenance of a wide. variety of product and systems; the nature of the product and system is left undefined, and therefore a tooth brush is as much a product of engineering as is a sugar factory or as is a highway. It is in fact misconceptions about this nature of product that leads to misunderstandings about what is engineering and what is not!

The Kenyan Engineers Act 2012 defines engineering 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 to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions or aspects of intended functions, economics of operation and safety to life and property.

The latter definition, which focuses on structures, machines, works and such like, would tend to imply that engineering products should be highly visible and tangible. While this view might have been fashionable at some point in the past, it is clearly a misnomer in modern times. Over the years, the engineering profession has evolved to a level where engineering products span the whole spectrum from macro (such as large structures, machines, etc) to micro (e.g. micro computer chips and circuitry, engineered genetic codes, etc). The result has been to open up the conceptualization of engineering product, and the attendant emergence of new fields of engineering (e.g. software engineering, genetic engineering, knowledge engineering, etc). A progressive profession must correspondingly evolve and take steps to recognize and accommodate such new fields.

Geospatial Engineering
Geospatial Engineering is the name that has been adopted by most of the world in the early 21stcentury to describe the second oldest profession that until then was generally called Surveying. The thinking in the industry was that the term surveying no longer adequately described what wasdonebyitspractitionersandthat a large portion of the public tended to associate the term with only surveying for the purpose of land titling, which is only a small part of what surveyors now do. Traditionally, surveying has been carried out under diverse branches such as topographical, cadastral, engineering, hydrographic, etc, with each producing its own specialized maps and other data. With the advent of digital mapping in the mid 1980s, any of the products from these diverse branches could be merged into one digital geospatial database. Surveying then became, essentially, the design, construction and maintenance of a geospatial database, hence the name geospatial engineering. This fits in pretty well with what engineering is, provided that there is acceptance of the expanded meaning of "engineering product" to included a database, which goes through an elaborate process of database design, construction (database implementation), and maintenance.

Furthermore,geospatial engineers are involved first before most structures(e.g.bridges,high rise buildings,roadsetc.) commences and throughout theconstruction process in setting out, maintaining angles ,levels and verticality of structures, which is crucial in building. It is evident that geospatial engineers like any other engineers, are entangled in engineering works and hence should be accredited by the myopic EBK board.

Conclusion
It is the author's view that with a broadened understanding of "engineering product and system" as above, it should not be difficult to see the need to open up the engineering profession to accept the corresponding new branches, including geospatial engineering. This would in turn go a long way in mitigating some of the tensions in the engineering profession that are caused merely by the fact that a proposed new branch does not fit into the existing EBK defined branches, which branches are apparently cast in stone. To insist, as the EBK does, that all engineering activities today can fit into the quarto of civil, mechanical, electrical and agricultural engineering is to propagate a professional fallacy; it makes the EBK look like a cartel that is out to limit the number of players in the engineering industry.

It is my call to all engineering students to join the struggle for streamlining our profession to ensure faster development of our nation to realize some vital set blue prints such as Vision 2030, Because, a vibrant engineering profession leads to innovations therefore a back- born of industrialization; a greatly coveted thing in our country. IF IT HAS NOT AFFECTED YOU, IT MIGHT AFFECT YOUR CHILD, SIBLING AND THEREFORE A COUNTRY AT LARGE. LET US FIGHT FOR A BETTER PRESENT AND THE BEST FUTURE.

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