Nthato Moagi

Aerodynamics engineer, Denel

When Nthato Moagi was growing up in Soweto, he had but one dream, and that was to become an astronaut.

“I used to play with Lego from an early age, and I was always breaking my things apart, and using them together with other recycled materials to build and design my own models, vehicles and toys,” he says. “At around the age of 10, I found out about Lego Mindstorms kits that you could use to build robots, but my mother couldn’t afford them because she was a factory worker earning a minimum wage.

“About a year later, I heard about a new magazine publication that was being launched called Ultimate Robots. My mother was able to buy me the first two issues, but she wasn’t able to buy me the subsequent issues that followed. Because of this, I received the first components that I need to start building a robot, but I wasn’t able to progress any further. These components went on to haunt me for the rest of my childhood.”

Fast forward to grade 11, and Moagi realised he had to choose between studying astronomy or aeronautical engineering at Wits — but had no understanding of what engineering entailed. “Fortunately, this was the same year that the first Iron Man movie was released. After watching the movie, I fell in love with engineering, and I realised that my childhood love for breaking things apart and building new things would be realised through pursuing a career in this field,” he says.

Moagi works as an aerodynamics engineer under the strategic engineering group at Denel Dynamics, and has worked on multiple projects involving designing innovative systems on missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles. Last year, he became more involved in setting up a proposed innovation framework for the Denel Group.

“After hours, I am involved in robotics and education,” he says. “I want to apply innovative thinking and engineering principles into solving one of our continent’s greatest socioeconomic problems: access to quality education. I founded a start-up called CRSP DSGN to commercialise my final year thesis from Wits University into a product called the LCERT (Low Cost Educational Robotics Toy).”

A few months after founding the start-up, he was awarded first prize at the 2016 SAB Foundation Social Innovation Awards, which included enough seed funding to establish CRSP DSGN as a new hardware player in the innovative Etch space in South Africa.

“Through CRSP DSGN, we want to produce learners who have a growth mindset, instead of a fixed mindset. Our mission is give every single learner access to quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics educational resources.”

— Tamsin Oxford

Twitter: @nthato_crispy