May 3, 2023


Robot innovators

How UCU Students Created a “Blue Light” to Enhance Road Safety

By Irene Best Nyapendi
A personal, grim reality inspired Uganda Christian University (UCU) student, Anei Agany Mabui, to invent a robot to curb road crashes. 

Students explain “why” the innovation

“One time I took a patient to Mulago hospital, and I couldn’t get a bed for him because most of the beds were occupied by patients from motorcycle accidents,” said Mabui, a South Sudanese student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. “I decided that I needed to do something to think of a solution to reduce the risks of road accidents.”

With the help of two coursemates, Mabui developed the model robot to alleviate collisions at traffic junctions. Mabui, Marvin Kauta and Gary Mathew Nkuraija developed the prototype with equipment that UCU Partners donated to the university’s robotics laboratory.

According to Dr. Olivia Kobusingye, an accident and emergency surgeon, more than 40 per cent of the financial budget allocated to the hospital’s trauma center is spent on treating victims of motorcycle crashes. 

“Our aim is to reduce motorcycle accidents at traffic light junctions in Uganda,” Mabui said.

He observed that at the traffic lights junction, accidents are a result of the mad dash after the lights have turned green for the motorists to go. “There are three colours on the traffic lights, whereby red signifies stop, orange means get ready to move and green signifies move. When the green lights go on, it allows both motorcycles and vehicles to move at the same time, but because of the huge volume, it causes collisions.”

The students reasoned the solution to avoid collisions was adding a fourth traffic light, which is the blue light. “So, when the blue light goes on, it signifies that only motorcycles can move, to avoid congestion of both cars and motorcycles moving at once,” Mabui said.

The project gives a basic idea of how to reduce traffic accidents on major roads and road junctions with traffic lights. The Uganda annual police crime report 2022, registered 20,394 cases of road accidents. Of those, 4,534 died, 15,227 had serious injuries and 1,712 sustained minor other injuries.

The students also derived inspiration for the project from the 11th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) set by the United Nations to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Emmanuel Isabirye, the students’ instructor in charge of innovation, said UCU has a dedicated practical training program and research laboratory for robotics, data science, artificial intelligence and mechatronics. 

One of the robots was developed by the Computing students based at UCU.

“I am so proud and happy to see my students innovate and create an impact in the community,” Isabirye said. He said Mabui, Kauta and Nkurajja hit two birds with one stone: that is the 9th and 11th SDG. The 9th SDG aims at building resilient infrastructure, promoting sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation.

“We appreciate Uganda Partners for their timely intervention through the donation of equipment,” Isabirye said. “The students have been wanting to experiment with their ideas, but they didn’t have the equipment to make the prototypes”. Isabirye hopes innovations will become a culture for university students before they graduate.

Student innovators are grateful to UCU Partners

UCU Partners donated an assortment of items including sensors like infrared sensors, ultrasonic sensors, led bulbs, batteries, Arduino boards, breadboards, jumper wires, glue and servo motors. The project was entirely a brainchild of the Department of Computing and Technology students. 

“We are implementing what we learnt last semester and through that knowledge, we have come up with something impactful,” Kauta said.

Nkuraija said during their study, they looked at the Kampala-Jinja Road as their case study because of the high number of accidents on the carriageway. During heavy traffic, cars and motorcycles follow each other so closely, many times resulting in accidents. He said with automation, it is possible to ensure a certain level of safety on the road.

“We are basing on improving the traffic light system through using automation to reduce stampedes and accidents on the road,” Nkuraija said.

He called on motorists to embrace the project once it is offered to them, so that the road is safer for them, their passengers and other road users.

The student solution to end fatal crashes on the road is a significant step towards the integration of technology and electronics in pursuit of optimizing limited resources.

Prof Nyende publishes book

UCU professor reinforces need for deep understanding of Bible

By Pauline Luba
Uganda Christian University (UCU) Prof. Peter Nyende’s first love was football. In the 1980s, as a young boy at Kenya’s Jamhuri High School in Nairobi, he was part of the national team that represented the country in the under-14 football competition in South Korea. Nyende’s interest in the game made him harbour intentions of playing it at a professional level. However, his father thought he should pursue a “more serious career.” 

Background & Formation of the Bible Scholar

By the time, as the teenager started his A’levels at Jamhuri, his interest had shifted to economics. However, he says as time went on, he had a deep sense of God’s calling to serve him fully in the church. By 19 years, Nyende was fully committed to serving God in the ministry. While growing up, Nyende was an active member of the church and in the Christian Union in school.

“I felt a deep sense of God’s call in my life,” Nyende related during an Uganda Partners’ interview in his UCU-Mukono campus residence.  “That made me abandon the other ambitions I once had.”

However, when he applied to join a theological school, he was told that he was “too young and too bright” to immediately venture into the priesthood. He was advised to first study something else that he was interested in before joining a theological college. 

The cover photo of Nyende’s new book

The cover photo of Nyende’s new book

Again, Nyende’s father did not approve of his son’s choice of a career in the church over work as an economist. Later, Nyende’s father warmed up to his choice, noting that it must have been God’s plan. Nyende went to Daystar University, also in Kenya, for his undergraduate degree, with a major in Bible studies. He then undertook training at an Anglican college in Nairobi and was ordained in 1998. Thereafter, Nyende obtained a Master of Pastoral Studies from Ridley Hall in Cambridge and a Master in Theology in the New Testament from Edinburgh University. 

Currently, the 53-year-old is an Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology of UCU. He also is a canon in the Anglican Church and a commissioned evangelist with the Church Army Society of Africa. Nyende has an interest in biblical theology and the interpretation of the Bible in African contexts. 

He says the “word of God must make sense in the context of the hearers.” Nyende has to date published 12 research articles and 2 book chapters. This year, he has hit another milestone, with his latest publication, a 288-page book, The Restoration of God’s Dwelling and Kingdom

In the book, published by the UK-based Langham Publishing, Nyende presents the central story of both the Old and New Testaments as the restoration of God’s dwelling and kingdom in the world. “He traces this narrative through its many stages of development — creation and fall, God’s covenants with Israel, exile — to its ultimate fulfilment in Jesus, the church and the new Jerusalem,” says a short profile of the book on the Langham Publishing website. 

Though mainly written for theological students and teachers, the book can be read by anyone who wishes to deepen their understanding of the Bible. Nyende says he began writing the book in 2019 and had completed it by December 2022. He was lucky to land a deal with Langham Publishing to have it published in 2023.

From Nairobi to Kampala

For a man who studied, lived and worked in Kenya, how did he end up as an academic at UCU? In 2014, he says he was approached by the Dean of UCU’s Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology to join the university community. Through the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Uganda, the Archbishop of Kenya was informed of the need for Nyende at UCU. Nyende says when he was informed of the request, he accepted and applied to join the UCU family, which he did in 2015. He says he has been able to witness how the Church supports activities of the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology, enabling the preparation of well-trained pastors.

Prof Nyende publishes book
Prof Nyende inside his study.

As an expert in the interpretation of the Bible, when Uganda Partners asked him how the challenge of the misinterpretation of the Holy Book can be dealt with, Nyende said to properly interpret the Bible, there is a need to understand the context in which a section was written, why it was written and what prompted the writing.  There is also the need to understand the whole Bible as one book. 

“The Bible is one book. One cannot read one book (or a chapter in the book) in isolation from the books before and after if one is to understand the Bible properly. Although it is made up of 66 books, they are interlinked,” Nyende explained. 

Born in Butere town of western Kenya on June 15, 1969, in a family of 10 – seven boys and three girls – Nyende’s academic journey got rocky when his father retired just before he began his university education. However, he says by that time, he was old enough to know that the responsibility of completing school lay with him. He says he made money teaching English privately to students and also raised some funds from friends and the church. 

Nyende has been married to Josephine Njoki Marete for 17 years, and they have two children – 13-year-old Brodie, a student at Vienna College, and six-year-old Arabel, a pupil at Seeta Junior Primary School. Nyende says he visits his home country at least three times a year and usually enjoys the Christmas holidays with members of his extended family there.