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Eskom Expo 2014: SAEON rewards young scientists for impressive projects in environmental monitoring

By Sibongile Mokoena, Education Outreach Coordinator, SAEON

The SAEON Special Awards for Best Project in Environmental Monitoring featured prominently at the 2014 Eskom Expo’s awards ceremony held at the Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre in Boksburg in October. Projects in the Environmental category covered a variety of topics with great depth, demonstrating scientific knowledge and skills.

The SAEON Award in the junior category went to Timika Ballantyne, a Grade 7 learner from Richmond Primary School in KwaZulu-Natal, for her project ‘Shrimp population in the Serpentine River’. Timika also won a silver medal in the Eskom Expo national finals.

Iris Jarre, a Grade 9 learner from Herschel Secondary School in Cape Town won a SAEON Special Award for her project, ‘Does research harm Robben Island penguins?’ This insightful project moreover won Iris a silver medal in the national finals.

Luphelo Belu, a Grade 11 learner at the TEM Mrwetyana Secondary School in Grahamstown won the SAEON Special Award in the senior category for his project ‘Water Wise: investigating public perceptions about the water crisis in the Grahamstown East Township’. Luphelo also won a bronze medal in the Eskom Expo national finals. This budding scientist represented the SAEON Elwandle Node at the SAEON Education symposium held in Phalaborwa in September.

The SAEON Special Award consists of a framed certificate, a book, Observations on Environmental Change in South Africa, and a pair of binoculars.

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Luphelo Belu, a Grade 11 learner from the Eastern Cape, won the SAEON Special Award in the senior category

Grade 9 learner Iris Jarre from the Western Cape scooped a SAEON Special Award for her project, ‘Does research harm Robben Island penguins?’

Eskom Expo for Young Scientists

The Eskom Expo showcases scientists in the making from over 31 regions. The national event aims to encourage young people in Africa to participate in science, technology, engineering and maths activities in order to promote an interest in these subjects.

This science fair not only exposes learners to the exciting world of science, but learners also gain several important life skills, including critical thinking, problem-solving as well as discipline, presentation skills, the importance of team work as well as learning to interact with people from a variety of backgrounds.

In the last few years, the Eskom Expo has grown from strength to strength, and in recent years there has been a focus on drawing more female learners into the competition. This year, 477 female learners competed alongside learners from as far afield as Mexico, and from our neighbouring countries Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland.

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The SAEON Award in the junior category went to Timika Ballantyne, a Grade 7 learner from KwaZulu-Natal, for her project ‘Shrimp population in the Serpentine River’

Sibongile Mokoena, SAEON’s Education Outreach Coordinator, with Luphelo Belu at the awards ceremony

The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor viewed the projects before presiding over the prize-giving ceremony. “Every time I come to the Eskom Expo my belief in South Africa is strengthened ten times over. At the Eskom Expo we want to begin the process of identifying talent. If we pique a learner’s interest at a young age, it is possible to sustain it for many decades to come,” Pandor said during her keynote speech.

“Don’t limit your ambitions. Dream as widely as you can. There are immense challenges that confront South Africa, but you can be part of resolving those challenges,” she told the learners.

Guests were treated to a stirring talk by Mthatha-born Siyabulela Xuza, inventor of safe and affordable rocket fuel, Eskom Expo alumnus, Harvard University graduate and now inventor of ground-breaking micro-fuel cell technology.

"It is an honour and a privilege to be back here [at the Eskom Expo]; this is where it all started. My story is a product of the vision that the Eskom Expo team had," he said.

Xuza encouraged all the young scientists present to pursue their dreams and not be discouraged by setbacks and failures. "South Africans, whether black or white, male or female, are capable of global innovations. Embrace the opportunity the Eskom Expo gives you," he said.

Of the more than 17 000 learners who participated at a regional level, only the top 822 were selected to represent their regions at a national level. A select group of Special Awards and gold medal winners will go through to interviews for spots on national teams that will represent South Africa at various international fairs.

The Eskom Expo is endorsed by the Department of Public Enterprises, Department of Basic Education and the Department of Science and Technology, and has also received recognition from the Presidency.

Source: Eskom press release 

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