The GhIE Calabash

In late March 2015, I was shortlisted to present my paper on the potential of unmanned aerial vehicles in the development of the SADA Region, among 8 others, at a Ghana Institution of Engineers (GhIE) Engineering students’ Calabash Competition in Tamale.

Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) is a Government of Ghana agency responsible for coordinating a comprehensive development agenda for the  savanna ecological zones comprising the three northernmost regions and stretches of Brong Ahafo and Volta Regions that are contiguous to the Northern region of Ghana


I was quite excited to travel up north and finally see the differences in vegetation and climate I had learned back in High School Geography……and also because I just like travelling. Together with three other teams from KNUST, we headed out to Tamale late at night, after transportation issues threatened to derail the whole trip. We finally hired a bus around 9pm and begun the journey.

As the bus raced across the very empty roads, away from settlements, conversations waned as we began dozing off, one by one, leaving the driver and a very quiet vehicle. Awakened by the vehicle’s deceleration, we stopped by the road near other vehicles who had also parked. We were told we would be waiting for about two hours so the police could escort the whole convoy – as there had been numerous robbery incidents along the road ahead.

We took the break to walk around, as some guys tried the food sold by the vendors close by…..yes, there were vendors out in the middle of nowhere. With dazzling stars in a cloudless sky, the conversation drifted into astronomy and I obviously couldn’t help but show off the awesomeness of Google Sky Maps. With Orion in the sky, it was an easily identifiable landmark to aid the location of other celestial bodies.

Soon we were in motion once again, arriving in Tamale at about 5am. We disembarked at the Catholic Guest house, napped and headed off to the Tamale sports stadium for the event.

The Tamale Sports Stadium

Now, with pressure from school work and my final year project, I had rushed to complete my slides with little rehearsal. I kept making minor edits repeatedly until my 15 min max. presentation had 41 slides…..Forty One! The math implied my time per slide was just terrible… 22 seconds each. I reasoned as some slides were meant to be shown for less than 5 seconds, it could balance out.

I had never been so wrong.

With the 15 minute presentation turned into a 21 minute lecture (they gave me an extension thankfully), and with concepts like orbital station keeping, spectroscopy, aviation safety, orbital mechanics, precision agriculture being featured and explained…….It was a mess. By the time I got to explain the actual solutions, I was almost out of time, with my words per minute entering  Sarkodie’s rapping zone. In spite of all that, the audience appeared quite happy with it, as some conversations after the presentation indicated.

The Presentation

Watching the video of the presentation still makes me cringe. For this reason, it will continue to remain hidden among my archived videos for a long time. I ended up at third place, tying with a team from the Regional Maritime University, with their concept on solar distillation. With KNUST sweeping all three awards, it was great to have the provost of the College of Engineering around to observe.

The award

Writing on the event now, I have learnt from my mistakes, learning a bit more on presenting. Believe it or not – I actually watched tutorials on technical presentations before the event. Still, nothing beats practice.

I am currently working on testing and implementing some of the ideas presented at the event, as I am currently a research assistant at the Earth Observation Research and Innovation Centre (EORIC formerly the GEONETCast Centre) at the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR), Sunyani, which operates in the SADA region.

I now aim to have presentations in the Falling Walls Lab style – 3 slides, 3 minutes – which is actually enough to present all your core ideas, forcing you to rid your presentation of extraneous material. I won’t be so strict on the slide count though, but 3 minutes seems just about enough for most circumstances. Hopefully, my next presentation would be worthy of upload here.


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