Competing with South Africa’s brightest young scientists

Entries have streamed in in record numbers for this year’s Eskom Expo International Science Fair. The best and brightest of South Africa’s young scientists – primary and secondary school learners – will learn whether they came out on top at an award ceremony on Friday, 8 October 2021 at 17h00. Because of the pandemic, it will be a virtual affair via Eskom Expo’s YouTube channel. 

South Africa will be represented by award-winners from nine provincial competitions drawn from 35 regions across the country. The world will be there, through competitors from Mozambique, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and from further afield – Turkey, Indonesia, and Mexico.

“It is indisputable that the solving of current and future developmental challenges faced by South Africa lies with it youth. With youth unemployment rate at an unprecedented high, entities such as Eskom are nurturing innovation, critical skills, and entrepreneurialism in our leaders of tomorrow. I am further pleased with the young women scientists who make up the majority of Eskom Expo finalists this year,” added Nthato Minyuku – Group Executive: Government & Regulatory Affairs.

The expo is funded by the Eskom Development Foundation, whose CEO, Cecil Ramonotsi, explains: “The primary aim of the Eskom Expo is to encourage our youth to get involved in science, technology, engineering, maths, and innovation, thus expanding the country’s skills base. The challenges brought on by the pandemic meant that Eskom Expo had to be pro-active in finding ways of organising and running the competition – online workshops, video tutorials, virtual science clubs and science day camps,” continued Ramonotsi.

The Eskom Expo is the oldest and most prestigious science fair in the country with awards this year worth R16 million. This includes a range of bursaries to fund studies at tertiary institutions. Walking away with a bursary of R640 000 can change a lucky winner’s whole life, particularly if the winner or winners come from families with limited resources where a university education is but a dream.

The 20 projects from 36 foreign participants are competing with 498 projects from 603 South African participants – award-winners from the thousands who had entered the nine provincial science expo fairs. The foreign participants’ list is made up of 23 females and 13 male entries while for South Africa females also topped the list – 395 as against 208 males.

The awards come from Eskom SOC, Eskom Development Foundation, Siemens South Africa as well as universities, institutes for electrical and civil engineering, private companies and range from bursaries to laptops.

Despite the pandemic and the often-trying circumstances, the level of entries was consistently high, said Ramonotsi, and covered a wide variety of issues, such as:

  • A multi-layered handkerchief to be better able to control a cough or a sneeze
  • The socio-economic characteristics of primary school teachers and how that contributed to the Covid-19 risks they face
  • An automatic hand sanitiser to reduce the risk of virus transmission in public places
  • A moveable bridge to assist people and traffic to cross a flooded river
  • Cooking with solar power
  • Early detection of possible malnutrition
  • How to pack eggs better
  • How to extend the life of a battery in an electric vehicle
  • How to make plastic biodegradable.

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