SA researchers win Gold for innovative plastic pollution mitigation study at Tunisia Science Festival

Two exceptional young scientists from the Cape Town Regional Expo have made a resounding impact on the global scientific research arena, having earned Gold medals at the prestigious International Festival of Engineering, Science, and Technology in Tunisia (I-FEST2).

The research by Joseph Gibbon and Matthew Redfern, Grade 12 learners at Pinelands High School, “Comparing and evaluating different types of bioplastic polymers – an investigation into bioplastics”, was also deemed as one of the top 10 projects at the festival. They made their own bioplastics (starch-based, gelatine-based, and fish-scale-based bioplastics), and tested the plastic’s tensile strength, biodegradability, solubility, flammability, and thermal properties.

“We are delighted to receive a gold medal at I-FEST2. We have worked really hard on this project and we are glad to see it pay off. We are so proud of our project. We really enjoyed the whole experience. We learnt a lot about science, research and innovation, and were amazed by the beautiful and fascinating culture of Tunisia. The programme was fun, as well as educational and interesting. Overall, it was a really enriching experience,” said the duo.

“When we began working on this project for our school, we had no idea that IFEST2 existed, but now we’ve had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To us, this shows that if you work hard and give your all for everything you do, it will pay off in ways you can’t even imagine right now,” the duo added.

The young scientists participated in the Eskom Expo International Science Fair (ISF) in December 2022, where they bagged a gold medal for their research, along with the opportunity to represent South Africa at the IFEST2. They also won the top senior category award in the Chemistry and Biochemistry category, and an opportunity to participate in a one-week boot camp and access to Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) funding valued up to R260,000 for their project.

Nthato Minyuku, Eskom Group Executive: Government and Regulatory Affairs, said: “Congratulations to the young scientists on their performance at the I-FEST2 for the pioneering research on mitigating plastic pollution. Your innovative approach and dedication to finding solutions to one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues are truly inspiring. Your research has the potential to make a significant impact, not just in South Africa, but globally. The future of science and technology depends on the next generation of scientists, and Eskom Expo plays an important role in nurturing and supporting them.”

The Eskom Development Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, Sumaya Nassiep said: “As the funder of Eskom Expo, we would like to congratulate the two young scientists on their well-deserved recognition. We hope that other aspiring young scientists are encouraged by their commendable performance to become involved in Eskom Expo and consider careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and innovation (STEMI), which is crucial for fostering innovation, addressing global challenges, and advancing society. The Eskom Development Foundation remains committed to supporting and encouraging young scientists while promoting innovation in STEMI fields.”

Registration to take part in Eskom Expo is open. Learners in grades 4 to 12, along with learners from TVET colleges that are in NC2 to NC4 can register their projects by clicking here.

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