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Scifest Africa 2014 - "Into the space!"


SAEON’s Magic Planet attracted large numbers of visitors, who learnt more about earth dynamics and the solar system from Thomas Mtontsi, Education Officer at SAEON’s Egagasini Node (Picture: Mpho Makwarela)


Learners engrossed in the Bird Game at the SAEON stand (Picture: Mpho Makwarela)


Nozi Hambaze, Education Officer at SAEON’s Elwandle Node (left), responds to questions at the Water World exhibit (Picture: Mpho Makwarela)


The Bird Game gave learners the opportunity to sharpen their basic computer operating skills (Picture: Mpho Makwarela)

By Mpho Makwarela, DST/NRF Intern, SAEON


Scifest Africa, the biggest science festival in Africa, seeks to promote public awareness, understanding and appreciation of mathematics, science and technology.

This year’s theme, "Into the space!" marked the installation of the first of 64 radio telescope dishes in Carnarvon, Northern Cape as part of the SKA project.

In keeping with the theme, the festival offered its visitors over 500 events that explored spaces big and small, such as anatomy and the brain, astronomy, the atmosphere, architecture, biotechnology, geographical regions, nanotechnology, psychology, underground and underwater exploration, space sciences, the SKA and the universe.

The official opening was attended by Dr Thomas Auf der Heyde, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Science and Technology and other dignitaries, including representatives of a wide range of embassies. Dr Auf der Heyde’s message to the learners was that there are still many challenges that science and innovation need to find the answers to.

"Learners should have a dream "

One of the big highlights for the learners was when keynote speaker Captain Barrington Irving from the United States took the podium. Captain Irving is a National Geographic Emerging Explorer and the youngest and first black person to fly solo around the world.

He said his duty was to inspire young people so that they, too, could fulfil their dreams and purpose in life. He believes that learners should have a dream, and this could start with an influential learning experience towards following a career in mathematics, science and technology. He told learners to strive for the best, because they have “nothing to lose but everything to gain”.

Another popular motivational speaker was Mandla Maseko, the first black African who will go into space in 2015. He spoke of the late Nelson Mandela as his inspiration and drew a comparison between Mandela and himself, "I will be the first black African in space and Mandela was the first black president of South Africa".

SAEON exhibited at the 1820 Settlers Monument and at Water World, hosted by the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB). Learners were thrilled by the Bird Game at the SAEON stand, where they learnt about bird identification and the habitats where the various bird species are found in Southern Africa.

Magic Planet

SAEON’s Magic Planet attracted large numbers of visitors, who learnt more about earth dynamics and the solar system. The Magic Planet displays different natural phenomena such as volcanoes, shifting of tectonic plates and hurricanes, and is of particular interest to learners who are studying Geography and Physical Science.

The weekend was far busier than expected, with large numbers of family members and learners arriving from the township. Many learners gathered at the SAEON stand to find out more about birds and their habitats. They found it a worthwhile learning experience and some learners moreover had an opportunity to learn basic computer operating skills.

The spectacular air show proved to be an appropriate conclusion to Scifest Africa 2014. The whole of Grahamstown came to a standstill as everyone was transported "into the space!"

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