South African young scientists earn prestigious medals at Türkiye Science Fair

Two South African young scientists have both earned medals after successfully showcasing their scientific research at this year’s Buca International Music, Science, Engineering Energy Fair (IMSEF), which took place in İzmir, Türkiye.

Inge Higgins, a Grade 9 learner from Hoërskool Menlopark in Pretoria, clinched a prestigious Silver medal in the Biology category, while Vera van der Merwe, a Grade 10 learner at Bloemhof Hoër Meisieskool in Stellenbosch, secured a Bronze medal in the same category. These remarkable achievements were realised at the international fair which was held from 20 to 25 November 2023. Both learners had been awarded the opportunity to travel to Türkiye and participate in the fair by the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists.

Higgins showcased her research project, “The effect of biodegradable olive-pulp plant pots on the germination and early growth of seeds”. Reflecting on her experience, she expressed numerous highlights, such as savouring the local cuisines, exploring historical sites like Ephesus and Şirince during excursions, and engaging in meaningful interactions with fellow delegates from diverse corners of the globe, ranging from Mexico to Indonesia.

“I am very appreciative of the opportunity provided by Eskom Holdings through the Expo for Young Scientists, and the support and encouragement provided by all who were involved in my project, from my school, to my family, to our delegation leader, Mmabatho Moloedi, the Eskom Expo’s North West Provincial Coordinator. I am honoured, proud and happy that I could represent our country, South Africa and won an award at the Buca IMSEF. Overall, it has been amazing, and very exciting to experience a different country and cultures.”

Van der Merwe, who presented her research project on “The effect of sheep density and length of disturbance on Prosopis seedling germination,” expressed her excitement and honour as she received the award. She extended her gratitude to her parents, mentor, school, and Eskom Holdings, through the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists for their unwavering support throughout the journey.

“The Buca IMSEF exposed me to the many opportunities there are in life. It was a wonderful experience to meet people from all over the world and experience the different cultures. My greatest dream has always been to travel the world, and the day trips exploring İzmir was a big highlight for me, along with making friends with the other young scientists from all over the world.”

Van der Merwe encouraged budding young scientists to never let little setbacks or people’s opinions stop them from achieving their true potential. “It is a long road to success with lots of hard work, but the most important part of the process is how much fun you have during your journey. No idea is too small or insignificant. You must learn how to express your ideas and have fun while doing it,” she said.

Learners from 14 countries, including South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Iran and Italy, amongst others, took part at this year’s IMSEF competition aimed at school learners, with projects being accepted in all the fields of science, engineering and music.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Eskom Development Foundation (Acting), Ms Mologadi Motshele congratulated the two learners on their achievements and said: “As the main funder of the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, we are extremely proud to witness our the two young leaners representing South Africa in this competition and making a big mark on the global scientific stage. Eskom Expo serves as a vital platform to empower learners across the entire country not only to cultivate their own skills, but also enabling them to positively contribute to our nation through scientific knowledge. Eskom Holdings as a company through Eskom Development Foundation, continues to play a crucial role in nurturing research, as well as development and innovation in Mathematics, Science and Technical skills, to foster a brighter future for our country.”

Eskom Expo Executive Director, Parthy Chetty said:” It is very rewarding to see two young self-motivated girls like Inge and Vera competing and winning on the international stage. South Africa has won awards each time our young scientists competed at Buca IMSEF, which bears testimony to the quality of the initiatives offered by the Eskom Expo to the learners in our country. The funding from Eskom has become instrumental in creating this unique platform for the learners though the Eskom Expo, which is aimed at developing future scientists and engineers for our country, at the school level.”

The registration for the schools and learners to take part in the next Eskom Expo for Young Scientists will open on the 15th of January 2024. All the learners in school grades 4 to 12 and those from the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges who are in NC2 to NC4, can register by visiting our website.

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