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Eskom Expo sharpens skills of young scientists

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Tania Moyikwa and Thembekile Gontshi at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists (Picture: Thomas Mtontsi)
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The learners discuss the projects they entered into the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. From left: Zodwa Yenana, Tania Moyikwa, Sipho Nkohla and Olwethu Mbopa (Picture: Busiswa Matyholo)
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Zodwa Yenana discusses her project with Thomas Mtontsi, Education Outreach Officer of SAEON’s Egagasini Node (Picture: Busiswa Matyholo)
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Tania Moyikwa practices her presentation skills while Olwethu Mbopa and Sipho Nkohla offer constructive advice (Picture: Busiswa Matyholo)
- Busiswa Matyholo, Intern, SAEON Egagasini Node

 

This year five learners from three schools in the SAEON Egagasini Node’s education outreach programme expressed interest in participating in the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. This annual competition, funded by Eskom, aims to inspire and empower young scientists to prepare and present their own science projects.

Argo float data

Tania Moyikwa from Sophumelela Secondary School and Thembekile Gontshi from Hout Bay High presented their joint project in Cape Town. The project -- which dealt with Argo float data downloaded online -- was aimed at investigating whether changes in temperature and salinity have an effect on ocean ecosystems. The learners selected the topic themselves.

Thomas Mtontsi, Education Outreach Officer at the node and SAEON Intern Busiswa Matyholo assisted the two learners to structure their project in terms of downloading, plotting and analysis/interpretation of Argo float data. After learning how to analyse the data, both learners were confident to work with any data presented to them and said they were pleased with the skills they acquired by participating in the project.

The learners all gained valuable insight and experience, which has greatly improved their understanding of the scientific method.

On the day of the Expo the presentation went well and Tania and Thembekile were able to answer all the questions posed by the judges because they were so well prepared.

Plankton collection

Olwethu Mbopa and Sipho Nkohla from Usasazo Secondary School presented their project in Stellenbosch. The project dealt with Bongo net instrumentation used to collect plankton species in the ocean. Plankton species fulfil a very important role in the ocean due to their contribution to the food chain. The learners focused on investigating how many of these species occurred inshore and offshore.

Thomas and Busiswa were on hand to teach the two learners the important scientific steps to be followed when conducting an experiment. Busiswa then assisted them in structuring their project, guiding them in their ideas and interpretation of data.

Measuring seawater temperature, salinity and nutrients

The fifth learner was Zodwa Yenana from Usasazo Secondary School, who presented individually at the Stellenbosch Expo. Her project was on CTD instrumentation used to collect seawater to measure temperature, salinity, nutrients and oxygen. Focusing on investigating how many of these factors are obtained on the seawater surface from inshore to offshore, she compared temperature, salinity, nutrients and oxygen from 1 to 12 (inshore to offshore). Nutrients and oxygen are very important factors in the ocean due to the nutrients’ contribution to phytoplankton feed and oxygen released by phytoplankton during photosynthesis.

The dreams of the learners came true when they joined the Department of Environmental Affairs on a research cruise in August 2011. They all gained valuable insight and experience, which has greatly improved their understanding of the scientific method.

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