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The Shell Petroleum Development Company has inspired the University of Benin (UNIBEN) Shell Eco-marathon Team to dream bigger than it set out to do. From the initial project of building a fuel efficient vehicle for the 2014 Shell Eco-marathon competition in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the team says it is now working on local production of lightweight gasoline engine for cars, and commercial production of lightweight utility vehicles suitable for farm road mobility.

“The purpose here is essentially to develop local skills in engine making technology,” said the Project Coordinator of the team, Professor Akii Ibhadede, who led other members of the team on a ‘thank you’ visit to the Managing Director of SPDC, and Country Chair Shell Companies in Nigeria, Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu recently.

Professor Ibhadede gave Shell credit for its support which he said contributed to the success of Team UNIBEN at the just concluded South African Shell Eco-marathon held in Kyalami Racetrack, Midrand, South Africa in October 2014, where the team won the award for the Most Innovative Design, and further distinguished themselves by repairing the engine of another team’s vehicle!

According to Ibhadede, Shell’s support to Team UNIBEN has led to a proposed partnership between a Benin city-based company and the (Nigerian)National Automotive Council to develop and produce, on a pilot scale, the lightweight utility vehicle for farm roads.

Apart from local capacity development, Ibhadede said the partnership would create employment opportunities in the local automobile industry. He therefore sought Shell’s continued support to make Team UNIBEN’s dream come true.

Mr. Sunmonu commended the team for its resilience and determination to move from its mere participation at the Shell Eco-marathon event in Rotterdam to making the project a pride to Nigeria.

“I’m particularly impressed with your ability to form a team across many departments in the university and work hard to be better by each passing day,” Sunmonu said. He charged the team to imbibe every leadership lesson learnt while working on the project, and encouraged them to accommodate as many students as possible who would want to share in the innovative task. This is an appropriate mandate for one of the first two teams from Sub-Saharan Africa to ever participate in this global competition.

The highlight of the visit was the presentation of the Most Innovative Design Award to the SPDC MD, and the personal presentation of the ‘The Head of Queen Idia’ carving to him, on behalf of the UNIBEN Vice Chancellor, Professor Faraday Orumwense.