Improving processes in developing countries is one of the things on Dropsy Kikabou’s idea-packed mind. The fourth-year student from the Republic of Congo came to Vancouver in 2009 to take a short course in English (ESL program) and discovered SFU’s mechatronic systems engineering program. Six years later, Kikabou is nearing graduation and ready to put his skills into action: to earn his P.Eng. license and establish development projects in Africa.
To kick-start his ambition, Kikabou hopes to be one of 10,000 African entrepreneurs selected for the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Program. The $100 million entrepreneurship program established by African visionary Tony Elumelu aims to create one million businesses across Africa
“When jobs are created and people make enough money, they are empowered. I believe that if we create opportunities, fewer talented Africans will leave the country.”
Kikabou’s numerous inspiring ideas for effecting change include building hydro-electric dams, monitoring agriculture with drones, using food scraps to feed crops and developing waste management solutions. Although diverse, the focus is always integrating engineering processes to improve lives. It’s a perfect fit for Kikabou’s mechatronics skills – combining mechanical, electrical and computer engineering.
It seems a talent for engineering is coded in Kikabou’s DNA – his brother and father are both in the industry, in Paris and the Republic of Congo respectively. But despite completing a diploma in industrial engineering technology before coming to Canada, Kikabou wasn’t convinced it was the career for him.
That changed when, a month before coming to Canada, his friend recommended mechatronic systems engineering. The entrepreneurial focus of SFU's program appealed to Kikabou, who had a burgeoning interest in business.
He applied to SFU’s School of Mechatronics Systems Engineering (“It was the only program I applied to in Canada, which I now realize was risky,” he says with a laugh), got accepted, and hasn’t looked back.
A highly engaged student, Kikabou got involved in many opportunities outside the classroom: as the Faculty of Applied Sciences representative for the Simon Fraser Student Society, VP of professional relations for the Mechatronic Systems Engineering Student Society, orientation leader and gold student ambassador. He was also one of the founders of the Mechatronic Career Engineering Expo (MechExpo), an annual event that offers employers and students the opportunity to connect.
In the classroom, Kikabou gained hands-on experience creating and optimizing processes for industry, including a capstone project with KODAK to modify the mechanical automation of a printing plate printer from pneumatic to electrical actuation.
“Mechatronics is a great degree, because it gives you a lot of perspective,” says Kikabou. “I found out that I’m interested in industrial engineering and project management, and I think the design skills I am learning in MSE will be very important for my career.”