Lockdown does not deter Eskom Expo young scientists

How to generate electricity from the soil, grow more tomatoes, test blood without pricking a finger – these are just some of the winning entries in the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists International Science Fair. And young they are, ranging from grade eight to eleven.

Explained Cecil Ramonotsi, CEO of the Eskom Development Foundation: “We are responsible for Eskom’s intent to invest in improving the quality of life of communities where Eskom operates across the country.  Part of that drive is the Expo, as we know it is not possible to grow our economy without more scientists, innovators and engineers. This is what the Expo helps to achieve.”

Eskom regards one of its key priorities being the expansion of the country’s skills base. An overview of some of the winning entries highlights this.

  1. A gold medal went to Talhah Patelia for his multi-purpose motorised robot which can help people reach inaccessible and dangerous places. It can be used in a wide variety of fields: search and rescue, agriculture, cave exploration, archaeology, also graphic design, architecture and medical science.
  2. Another gold was awarded to Hritik Mitha who developed a way test blood glucose levels without using the time-honoured and painful way of pricking of the finger. He thinks that his procedure can be expanded into other fields, like testing fat levels.
  3. Kohan Southgate and Pride Chigiji examined the sun’s radio waves for their gold award, and are now looking further afield to radio frequencies from other astronomical bodies. Their work was inspired by the Square Kilometre Array Observatory and the South African Radio Telescope.
  4. A silver went to Mongi Luthuli and Nicholas Homann for their work on how the density of a gathering can affect the spread of COVID-19. They found that four or fewer people who gather regularly in a space like an office during the pandemic minimises the danger of transmission. More people increase the danger.
  5. Another silver was earned by Cornelius Johannes van Rooyen who proved that the size of land used to produce tomatoes has little effect on the actual crop production. This is particularly valuable knowledge for urban farmers.
  6. For Anri de Beer the silver was awarded for an experiment which showed that the location of LED lighting in a room makes a difference to the amount of light available during load shedding. Using white paper also enhances the quality of the light.
  7. The Eskom Development Foundation’s Best Energy Project award went to Zandré Marx for work done to prove that electricity can be generated from the soil.

Learners did all of this despite the COVID-19 induced lockdown. Said the Expo’s executive director, Parthy Chetty: “Lockdown did not deter these young scientists from pursuing their passion and completing their scientific research and engineering projects on time. Out future looks brighter with the calibre of these learners.”

The Eskom Expo for Young Scientists International Science Fair is South Africa’s oldest, largest and most prestigious science fair for learners.  Its primary aim is to encourage the youth of South Africa and Africa to participate in STEMI (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation) activities in order to promote an interest in these areas with the long-term view of developing scientific skills.

Traditionally, expos are hosted in 35 regions across all nine provinces in South Africa, culminating in the annual international science fair where outstanding learners exhibit their research or investigative work. Prior to lockdown, the Eskom Expo reached more than 2 000 schools and 100 000 learners nationally, and the top 500 projects were invited to exhibit at the International Science Fair. Because of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, the resulting awards ceremony was held virtually.

The expo also reaches into Africa and beyond, attracting participants from several countries on the continent and even Turkey and Indonesia.

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