Physics without borders

SCI TECH SERVICES CAMEROON, an infrastructure for training to experimental methods

Visit the company created in Cameroon by Paul Woafo to develop training to experimental physics.

Paul Woafo, a professor at the University of Yaoundé 1, Cameroon, teaches physics. This university has more than 75,000 students, a city within the city.

Mentoring PhD candidates in his laboratory, Woafo finds that they have a good theoretical level, but that their experimental practice is low. This is due to the limitations of training in practical work during their university courses.

Not enough classrooms for practical work

Indeed, the practical sessions that require many rooms equipped with often expensive equipment that must be maintained in perfect condition are insufficient in number within the university given the large number of students. These limitations of practical training extend even to private institutes of higher education which, although smaller in size, have little enthusiasm for practical training.

How can science students in Yaounde become used to modern facilities of physical sciences?

An equipped laboratory

P. Woafo has set up an original startup that offers students access to a laboratory equipped with various devices. Housed in the outskirts of Yaoundé, this laboratory is equipped with electrical, electronic and optical devices that students use to carry out experimental measurements and thus become familiar with a rigorous methodology during real measurements.

This startup offers two types of action. In the first, students come in small groups to do practical work in the laboratory. For the second type, some equipment is designed to be transported to other premises and thus provide experimental training within university institutions (especially private institutes).

Optical bench

Among the devices available, an optical bench allows to concretely explore the formation of an image on a screen, to measure the focal length of a lens by manually adjusting the position of a lens in the beam.

Some details forgotten in the theory prove to be important in real life: the mechanical stability of the device, parasitic vibrations, the orientation of the screen in relation to the beam, etc.

Electrical measurements

Using another device designed by a first-prize winning student in the APSA 2017 competition, students combine resistors, capacitors and logic components to study how a signal changes when it passes through these interconnected elements in a modifiable circuit. In order to visualize these variations, measuring devices can be connected at different points in the circuit.

The design of this educational bench allows measurements to be taken with the minimum number of wires to be connected, thus reducing the risk of losses and electrical hazards.

Other instruments can also be used such as signal generators and oscilloscopes.

3D Printing

Finally, a 3D printer installed on the premises allows direct access to this technology of the future. Students can design original objects from their computers and, more importantly, follow the manufacture of the object by the printer. Thus, they observe the layer by layer development of the object, identify certain limitations of the technique and gain experience that they will be able to use in their future jobs.

This structure employs one person full-time and experienced students on a part-time basis as supervisors for the practical work.

Taking advantage of the equipment of his laboratory, P. Woafo develops in parallel an activity of production of original prototypes.

Jacques Cousty

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