S’nenhlanhla Dlamini from Ongoye Secondary School took home the top prize at the 2016 Eskom Expo for Young Scientists International Science Fair (ISF). The Grade 12 learner is the winner of a full scholarship to study in Germany sponsored by Siemens. Her project is entitled Smart Home Energy Saver in the Energy Efficiency and Conservation category and was one of the 580 finalists who competed at this year’s ISF where over R4 million worth in prizes was awarded to budding scientists from across the country and abroad (Mexico, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland).
This year’s ISF was concluded with a Grand Awards ceremony on Friday, 7 October at the Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre where 52 gold, 87 silver and 222 bronze medals were awarded. The three-day annual Expo saw young scientists from across South Africa and other countries present their projects to seasoned judges and experts. The Expo presents a platform for the youngsters to show their talents and encourage them to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation (STEMI) fields and is the largest science fair in the country. It also teaches learners internationally benchmarked scientific methods, their importance and the application thereof required at university level. By actively encouraging young people to pursue STEMI careers, Eskom aims to address the country’s shortage of skills in the fields of science and engineering.
Dignitaries at the awards included the Deputy Director-General from the Department of Science and Technology, Tommy Makhode, Eskom Acting Group Executive for Sustainability, Transmission and Risk Mr Leo Dlamini as well as senior managers from the Eskom Expo.
Dlamini said, “Just engaging with these young scientists strengthens my belief in the future of South Africa. All the finalists have got the capacity to inspire their fellow learners in their schools and communities and they should do just that. The fields of science, maths and technology are key to our development as a country. Youth unemployment remains our biggest challenge and we need to create opportunities in science and technology for as many young people as we can, because this lays the foundation for innovation.”
The DG was impressed with the standard of the projects and inspired by the attitude that the learners displayed. He also congratulated the Eskom Expo for its work in helping the young scientists realise and follow their dreams. “Science is an international endeavour and I am glad Eskom has created this platform for young scientists to pursue their passion and demonstrate their talent. With an average age of 16, I hope in the next 10 to 15 years we will be seeing some of the work of these young people helping to change our country and our world for the better. My only hope is that they continue in this path and grow their passion for discovery, which is what our world needs,” he said.
The Eskom Expo, which is endorsed by the Department of Public Enterprises, Department of Basic Education and the Department of Science and Technology, sees learners from 35 regions across the country competing for a ticket to the prestigious ISF. From the 8972 learners who participated at a regional level, only the top 580 were selected to represent their regions at the ISF.
At the ISF the learners presented their projects to a panel of judges that included professionals from the private sector, academics, scientists and educators in a bid to take home a medal, a special award or a prized ticket to an International Science Fair in 2017.
This year has been another momentous one for the Eskom Expo with 5393 female participants, versus 3564 male participants, while learners from Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe have participated for the fifth year in a row. Notably, this year has seen a phenomenal growth of 43% school participation across the country
Parthy Chetty, Eskom Expo for Young Scientists Executive Director said, “South Africa is reaffirming itself as the hub of scientific research and excellence on the continent by hosting young scientists from Africa, and beyond. Eskom Expo provides a unique platform for these self-motivated inquiring minds to explore the many possibilities of the scientific world and more importantly, the value of engaging in scientific research. To maintain this momentum and to ensure our competitive survival on a global scale, South Africa relies on unique initiatives like the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists that creates and supports an environment and a platform and innovation.”