Growing up roaming the hallowed halls of Mechanical Engineering at UKZN where his father was employed as an academic and being constantly surrounded by his dad’s robots and rockets, master’s graduate Tyrone Bright’s curiosity for how things work began at a young age.

Bright’s father Professor Glen Bright is now Dean and Head of the School Engineering at UKZN.

Sharing his journey, the young Bright explained: ‘UKZN has always been my home. I remember when I was young, I used to walk through the Mechanical Engineering building mesmerised by all the inventions and innovations around me. I would dream about how I would one day be able to create something that had the potential to change the world around me.’

He attended Glenwood Prep, Glenwood High and then UKZN where he completed his BSc degree in Mechanical Engineering. ‘I was hugely grateful for the opportunity to study at a prestigious university known for its distinguished Engineering departments. The world-class guidance and mentorship I received during my undergrad degree provided a solid foundation for the skills and knowledge I acquired in the field,’ said Bright.

His determination to make an impact in an ever-evolving world motivated him to pursue research into Human-Robot Collaboration (HRC). ‘The fourth industrial revolution is creating endless possibilities for achievements. I wanted to create something that was different and had the potential not only to change the world we live in, but also the lives of people around me.’

Bright’s master’s study focused on human-robot collaboration for advanced manufacturing systems, entailing the construction and testing of a cost-effective sensory glove which enables workers to collaborate with industrial robots safely in a flexible manufacturing environment. The realisation that the combination of human dexterity and inventiveness with the strength and speed of robots could lead to faster, more efficient and more cost-effective manufacturing processes was the motivation behind his studies.

‘In South Africa, automation is being used to improve product quality and decrease the cost of goods and services, but the negative is that it has displaced labour desperate for work,’ said Bright, adding: ‘The concept of humans and robots working together is a solution to bring people back onto the manufacturing floor while upskilling the workforce. To put it simply, it’s about creating an environment where humans and robots can work side by side to create products.’

The blood, sweat and tears over the past two years culminated in Bright being awarded a master’s degree cum laude. He is eternally grateful to his parents, fiancé and grandmother for their love and support throughout his academic journey. ‘The endless guidance I have received from them has been invaluable. I will be forever grateful for the sacrifices that my parents made to ensure that I had the best opportunities through my career,’ he said.

Inspired by his father, Bright hopes to read for a PhD and then join the world of academia. ‘While I am still figuring out the topic for my PhD research, I hope either to continue in the Human Robot Collaboration field or venture into drone research,’ he said.

Whether it is his passion for his field of study or his compassionate nature, he makes an impact on people he meets and is respected and loved by staff and students alike. Said his supervisor Professor Sarp Adali: ‘Tyrone’s drive to make an impact in the ever-evolving world we live in was echoed through his passion for his project and his cum laude result. Mr Bright is a born academic. I wish him the best of luck and hopefully he will join us to continue his career!’

Postgraduate Administrative Officer, Ms Ausie Luthuli, congratulated both Brights: ‘Tyrone is always a very humble and respectful student. Well done to Prof Bright for bringing him up to achieve these qualities.’

Words: Swastika Maney

Photograph: Rogan Ward