Vhembe young scientist wins mentorship prize at Eskom Expo ISF with AI powered app

A young scientist from Thohoyandou Block J in the Vhembe Region has made waves in the world of science and technology through her remarkable achievements at the Eskom Expo International Science Fair (ISF) with her artificial intelligence (AI) powered mobile application.

Thendo Mpho Lukhwareni, 16, a Mbilwi Secondary School learner, was among the ten learners selected to receive a coveted 12-month Mentorship and Incubation programme sponsored by the Durban University of Technology during the ISF which was held at the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre in Boksburg. Valued at an impressive R20,000 per learner, the programme is a well-deserved recognition of Lukhwareni’s potential and her impactful research project.

“My project, the ‘Student Tech Universal Developed Assistant (STUDA)’, is an app powered by AI that assists students who are struggling with procrastination and/or sickness to complete their schoolwork on time. It also gives students the capability to write stories and explore the nuances of the English language. The aim is to mitigate the exponentially increasing illiteracy rates among youth in South Africa, and to provide a more accessible studying tool,” said Lukhwareni, who was also awarded a silver medal at the fair.

“The inspiration for my project came from my own experience. This year alone, I had to spend many hours at the doctor’s office. This made it more difficult to finish my work on time. Upon further inspection, I realised that most of my classmates were also struggling with the same problem, with the main cause being procrastination. These factors combined made me realise that there is a need to develop a solution that assists students who are struggling with procrastination and/or sickness to finish their schoolwork. With that, STUDA was born,” she said.

Lukhwareni plans to further her research and her understanding of psychology and neurology behind learning and how AI can be used to make learning easier. She aspires to revolutionise our understanding of learning and the educational system.

Eskom Development Foundation Acting CEO, Mologadi Motshele, said: “At the Eskom Expo, young scientists were given the platform to apply their logical thinking, creativity, and innovation to address pressing problems within their communities. Eskom Development Foundation wholeheartedly provides support to these learners who are not only finding solutions but are emerging as inspirational figures among their peers. As they navigate the intricate landscape of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation (STEMI), the Expo strives to ignite a lasting passion for innovation and steer them toward promising careers in these fields”.

Eskom Expo Executive Director, Parthy Chetty said: “The purpose of the Eskom Expo is to grow scientists and engineers for South Africa and this winning project from Lukhwareni is proof that we are on the right track. This winning project hails from a Limpopo township without many amenities and educational support structures as found in the big cities, and would not have been found had it not been for the unique platform the Eskom Expo provides to our learners. It is therefore important for more schools, teachers and learners to participate in the Eskom Expo to win life-changing awards.”

Eskom Expo ISF 2023 Special Award winners

Eskom Expo ISF 2023 Grand Award winners

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