Gauteng young scientist gears up for prestigious Stockholm science seminar

Crawford International Ruimsig learner, Brandon de Greef, is set to embark on an extraordinary journey, marking a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar (SIYSS) during Nobel Week.

De Greef, 18, from Krugersdorp, Gauteng, was honoured with the prestigious University of Pretoria/Professor Derek Gray Memorial Award at the 2022 Eskom Expo International Science Fair, where he won the opportunity following a successful showcase of his ground-breaking research project, titled “Powdered Insulators for High-Voltage Applications”. The project earned him the Derek Gray Gold Medal and a three-year study bursary in the sciences or engineering at the University of Pretoria, provided he meets the required criteria.

“My research project involved finding if an only powdered insulator would be a possible substitute for high voltage electrical insulator (greater than 5kV). This powder would be far easier to remove, repair and do maintenance with than our conventional oils and gasses – which most are toxic to humans and the environment, and also very expensive. Systems that contain these are also very hard to repair due to them being messy, and needs to be completely replaced.  The powdered insulator would be far cheaper and better for the environment,” said De Greef.

“I started this project due to another project that involved a makeshift cathode ray tube inside a large DIY vacuum chamber. There was unfavourable arcing which could not be stopped by tape due to it not making a good seal, glue/epoxy was also too permanent. In the end, Plaster of Paris powder worked very well, leading me to test a multitude of other dry chemical powders,” he said.

In May 2023, De Greef was part of an Eskom Expo delegation that travelled to Dallas, Texas in the USA to showcase their scientific research projects at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). He took part in this year’s Eskom Expo International Science Fair (ISF) in October with another research project, entitled “Solar Optimisation for Personal PV Systems”, for which he was awarded a Gold medal.

The upcoming annual seminar in Stockholm, scheduled from 6 to 12 December 2023 promises an extraordinary blend of science and cultural programming. Exclusive to participants aged 18 to 25, the event features individuals selected from international science fairs and premier universities, recognised for their remarkable research undertakings. This uniquely curated programme unites young minds from diverse global backgrounds, fostering a shared passion for science. Its overarching goal is to inspire youth to pursue scientific endeavours while concurrently championing international understanding and friendship.

Prof Walter Meyer, Physics Department at the University of Pretoria, said: “At the Eskom Expo ISF, Brandon impressed the judges by his careful experimental design, his ability to learn from his mistakes to improve his designs, as well as his meticulous attention to detail. The SIYSS is a unique experience and I am delighted that Brandon will represent South Africa at this prestigious event.”

Eskom Expo Executive Director, Parthy Chetty said: “Brandon is in a very fortunate position to be the only learner invited from Africa to attend this prestigious event. It was a life-changing event for every Eskom Expo learner who attended in the past, and I’m sure Brandon will experience the same excitement when he meets current Nobel winners and Nobel Laureates. With the ongoing support from Eskom, the Eskom Expo continues to produce future scientists for South Africa, who bring new hope for our future.”

Registration to take part in Eskom Expo opens on 15 January 2024. Learners in grades 4 to 12, along with learners from Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges that are in NC2 to NC4, can register and upload their own research projects via our website.

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