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Learners turn passion for science into problem-solving innovations at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists Johannesburg regional expo.

On 28 July over 600 learners from around Johannesburg competed at Wits University with remarkable innovations in the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists Johannesburg regional competition. 

The excited participants presented their hypotheses, research and conclusions to a team of discerning judges in the hope of earning a medal, and to get the chance to take part in the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists International Science Fair (ISF) in Johannesburg from 3-6 October.

EEYS JHB Regionals - Primary School Eskom Special Prize Winners

After a full and nerve-wracking day of science at the Johannesburg leg of the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, all participants walked away with something - whether it was gaining new knowledge from their fellow scientists’ projects, valuable feedback, or the exciting prizes. Up for grabs in the primary school and senior school categories were bronze, silver and gold medals, recognition for their project as a category winner, or the coveted golden ticket to ISF.

Executive Director of the Eskom Expo, Parthy Chetty, is proud of the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists and the great strides children have taken to meet the objectives of the competition: “The competition unearths the country’s brightest young minds and presents to them the many exciting career opportunities available in the diverse scientific world.”

Most impressive more than 680 learners this year was the variety of the projects and the excitement of the bright young minds from across different backgrounds for the scientific method and the worlds of STEMI (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation). 

Many of the projects focused on demonstrating knowledge of the subject matter they were experimenting with, but a large number were looking at solving real world problems in their own communities as well as in the underprivileged or under-resourced areas of the country - an affirming indicator of the learners’ passions for using STEMI methods to create a better world with a brighter future.

Among some highlights across the age groups were projects concerned with water - reducing water use, improving water purification, and the impact of water quality on plant-growth and health. Others focused on a myriad of subject matters across the 24 categories, including many concerned with more sustainable and alternative methods of electricity production, as well as environmental conservation.

The primary school category had strong contenders in a number of fun and impressive projects, from transforming a chicken's egg into a rubbery bouncy-ball, and making a phase-ambiguous slime under the title "is it solid or is it liquid?"

Primary School Prize-giving:

Professor Kruger handed out bronze, silver and gold medals. Each of the category winners was thrilled with their achievements and the audience was blown away by the learners’ ability – some as young as grade 2 –  to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems.

A Bronze-medal-winning project by grade 5 learner, Ethan Williams from Broadlands School, was a magnet-levitated tram car project. Similar to the technology being explored in Elon Musk’s Hyperloop venture, the “Floating Car” aims to remove the need for too many moving parts by removing the wheels, and save energy by reducing friction in floating the vehicle along a magnetic track. Williams shared that he enjoys science because “...it can take you places. I want to be a zoologist, I want to go on expeditions or at least work at a zoo” he said. On how that ties in with his transport and engineering passion for this project, Williams stated, “I want to be in technology. I also like video games, technology and animals.” 

The category winner for Environmental Management (and recipient of a silver medal) was a sibling duo from grade 2 and 5 of the Qurtuba Islamic Academy – Khaleel and Hanaan Akoojee. They have tested and proven the effectiveness of their project by implementing it in the real world, with the help of family and friends. “Juksei Dirt Catcher” is a pollution reduction solution for waterways, using a floating catchment net (buoyed by re-used water bottles cable-tied into a sturdy plastic fencing material) that catches floating waste in the river, and a pulley system to collect the rubbish and get it packed into bags and sent to be recycled and disposed of properly. According to their project write-up on display, they have already pulled 45 bags of rubbish from the Jukskei River in Buccleuch, during the collections they’ve made between 29 May and 21 July - just 2 months.

Senior exhibition:

The senior schools category was full of advanced ideas and experiments. One such innovation was the Trolley Dynamo, a project by a grade 9 learner, Priyal Manga from Northcliff High School, who noticed her mother’s cellphone battery always went flat at the grocery store. She thought to use the turning of a shopping trolley wheel to charge a small battery pack on the handle, so that shoppers could charge their phones while pushing the trolley. Inspired by cyclists, Manga says, “I happened to see a bicycle dynamo, and saw how it uses the movement of the wheels to charge a flashlight, so then I thought ‘why can’t we put that on a trolley?’”

Eskom Special Prize Winner Catherine Namponya

EEYS JHB Regionals Primary School Gold Medalists

Priya Manga Grade 9 Leaner Trolley Dynamo project

Another notable demonstration of an alternative way to find power, and to harness everyday energy, was the project titled “An eco-friendly renewable world”, part of which was the creation of an electricity-generating speed bump. The grade 7 duo, Sachin Mohan and Lamar Paulsen from Rewlatch Primary School, shared that “Most of the power stations are run on nonrenewable fuels, and they produce smoke that is very harmful to the environment.” They decided to use the kinetic energy of a car pushing down on a speed bump, to create electricity.” What excites them about using science to solve everyday problems, is that “You can come up with innovative solutions to solve the problems, like, there’s so many ways to do one thing.”

Senior Prize-giving:

After intense deliberation from the judges, a number of the young scientists were awarded high marks, and many were recipients of gold, silver and bronze medal winners - a testament to the high standards of science knowledge and interest in STEMI in the region. 

One of the Eskom Special Prizes was awarded to Grade 11 learner Catherine Namponya of Randpark High School for her project C02UBE. Judges noted that with the right support, her creation could find commercial value.

The Eskom Expo not only exposes learners to the exciting world of science, it also exposes them to the many career opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Innovation (STEMI). By actively encouraging the youth of South Africa to pursue

STEMI careers, Eskom aims to address the country’s skills-shortage, particularly in the scientific field. 

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