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In Conversation With… Mwila Lufungulo, Drone & Data Intern

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August 1st, 2022

EPFL Nairobi 58 2 Mwila Lufungulo

WeRobotics is a diverse, global team. To spotlight their unique talents and contributions to WeRobotics and Flying Labs, we asked them to share a bit about their backgrounds, roles, and interests.

Below is a conversation with Mwila Lufungulo, Drone & Data Intern.

Q: Please introduce yourself: who are you, where do you live, and what's your role at WeRobotics?

A: My name is Mwila Lufungulo. I was born and raised in the Kingdom of Eswatini. I currently live in Lusaka, Zambia, and hold the position of Drone and Data Intern at WeRobotics. 

How did you get started in your field? What were your academic background and critical work experiences? 

 I am a Water Technologist by profession. I studied and got my Diploma in Water Engineering at the Natural Resources Development College (NRDC) in Lusaka, Zambia. I particularly got interested in applying Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to water works, specifically in the Water Supply and Sanitation Sector. With GIS, I became a student trainer in training staff members of various companies, including Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines-Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH), Zambia Musika, Zambia Eastern Water and Sewerage Company, Zambia Southern Water and Sewerage company, to mention a few. This venture increased my exposure to this expanding industry and opened my mind and doors to the numerous ways of applying GIS to solving problems. I also enrolled in the African Drone and Data Academy, which further enhanced my skills by offering training in drone technology and data. I earned my drone pilot certification through this academy and the training provided.  

How did you get here? Why did you decide to join WeRobotics? What projects have you been working on?

I caught wind of the job post for Drone and Data Intern circulating through social media. When I saw the opportunity, I researched WeRobotics and was intrigued by the organization's notion and slogan of 'The Power of Local.' What resonated with me and I still find a rarity is that WeRobotics does not impose working practices on the local experts but instead will empower them with the end goal in mind, that these local experts be fully independent in their delivery of work.

I knew that if I got the chance to work for this powerhouse serving such values, it would be one place where I could grow quickly and dynamically, and It has been so.

Coming to projects, I recently got an opportunity to travel to Kenya and work with Kenya Flying Labs. I got to be a pilot assistant in a project involving synchronized take-off and landing of 10 drones simultaneously. The goal was to collect video footage over two busy roads of Nairobi for further research and analysis with the end objective of developing possible solutions to decongest these roads. My time spent in Kenya truly afforded me versed experience. Aside from the new professional experience, I left Kenya having made good friends, great additions to my network and met some of my colleagues who are even more high-spirited people out of the virtual space.

Apart from my internship at WeRobotics, I also track back to my water roots. I am currently working on a pilot project involving three smallholder farmers. They will use a newly developed water sensor referred to as 'The Chameleon.' It is supposed to aid farmers in managing their water usage.

What are you most looking forward to this year in your work?

WeRobotics is a space that permits trial and error. It has people that work in unison and is ecstatic to see one constantly putting effort and trying their absolute best in whatever they do. Having understood and seen this over time, my goal over the next four months is to continually capitalize on this by trying out new ideas, approaches, and different techniques, paying particular attention to the drone and data space as well as the Science, Technology, Engineering Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) space as these are my two key areas of focus. As much as I will try out different works, I also intend to use what's already available at WeRobotics in terms of the experts and resources available to build myself in drone technology, data, and STEAM—relating to the Flying Labs network, which comprises a diverse people with riveting cultures. Interacting with them, learning their behaviors, and ways to better understand them for me to know how best to work with them is one of the elements I want to embrace continually.

What are your go-to tools and processes for doing your job?

In this modern day, where technology is increasing, I take advantage of all applications that can help me perform my duties fully. My tasks and deadlines are kept neat and tidy using the Trello board. Google Calendar helps me stay on top of my meetings and have an organized schedule. I use Google Drive to store my files, but my all-time favorite is Slack which I use as a virtual office to easily reach out to my co-workers for work-related issues or sometimes just to share a good laugh. Last but not least is the internal knowledge-sharing platform WeShare, which serves as a rich hub for explanatory resources I use for tasks that may be new to me or need a refresher on. I am very open to learning new ways to enhance the effective completion of my tasks.

What do you like to do in your off time? How do you relax and unwind?

I spend my free time taking long walks, enjoying nature, and catching up on movies and series. I enjoy my own company but also create time to spend with family and friends.

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