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Innovation 4.0: Breaking boundaries to establish a new way of thinking

By Thomas Mtontsi, Nozipiwo Hambaze, Grant van der Heever & Jennifer Mohale, SAEON
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SAEON was awarded first prize for Best Water World Exhibition at Scifest Africa 2018


Learners view their images after using the SkiMonkey camera


A learner uses a refractometer to measure salinity

Change was the name of the game at this year's Scifest Africa, South Africa's national science festival, that was held in Grahamstown from 6-13 March.

The theme, Innovation 4.0, was aimed at encouraging young scientists to think out of the box and create a new way of thinking that questions the current rules and boundaries that govern science and technology.

Students and adults alike were introduced to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where imagination and innovation will lead the way into a new future; a future in which the shift from the "analogue generation" to the "digital generation" will be clearly defined.

SAEON at Water World

SAEON participated in Scifest Africa 2018 through an interactive marine science exhibition at Water World and through Salty Science & Buoyancy workshops at the 1820 Settlers' National Monument. Water World is a division of Scifest Africa that provides an exhibition platform for all organisations that deal with freshwater and marine environments.

The SAEON Egagasini and Elwandle Nodes teamed up to deliver what was to be an award-winning exhibit and performance. Nokubonga Mbandzi and Jennifer Mohale from the Elwandle Node contributed to the technical work that included providing learners an opportunity to observe microscopic organisms and real-time data collected through a weather station placed outside Water World.

The SAEON Egagasini Node's Thomas Mtontsi exhibited ocean dynamic systems using the Magic Planet (an interactive digital video projection globe with a sphere-shaped screen). By using a Lego ship and the SkiMonkey camera system, the Egagasini Node's Grant van der Heever illustrated how ocean floor investigations are undertaken. Learners enjoyed taking photographs of a simulated marine environment using the SkiMonkey camera.

The SAEON exhibit attracted a throng of visitors ranging from learners and educators to parents, students and officials. During the closing event, SAEON was awarded First Place for the best exhibit at Water World, Scifest Africa 2018. Thomas Mtontsi received the award on behalf of the SAEON team.

SAEON workshops

Scifest Africa offers participating institutions an opportunity to conduct workshops. SAEON seized this opportunity with great enthusiasm, enlisting the expertise of oceanographic technician, Imtiyaaz Malick and oceanographic technician intern, Jennifer Mohale.

The workshop titled Salty Science & Buoyancy used a hands-on approach to empower learners to engage constructively with science. Kogie Govender, SAEON's Science Engagement Coordinator, co-facilitated the workshops and blended the physics concepts to enrich the workshop and create a fun learning environment.

Learners were asked to predict what would happen to gem stone crystals placed in different solutions such as fresh water, carbonated water and salt water. Learners were then given an opportunity to conduct the experiment to test their predictions. The budding scientists learned how to use a refractometer to measure the salinity of fresh water, carbonated water and salt water.

Is there an age limit to playing with play dough? Not in this workshop. The attendees were mostly high school learners and they used play dough to design a "boat" that would not sink when put in a beaker of water. This part of the workshop became an unintended competition with learners experimenting with the size of the load of crystal gems their play dough "boats" could carry before sinking.

During the last activity learners constructed a Cartesian diver using a water bottle and two divers made of medicine droppers and a metal nut. There was much fun and laughter as learners tried to make the one diver sink by squeezing the water bottle and catching the loop on the other diver.

This activity taught participants the principle of buoyancy and illustrated how submarines use similar principles. The learners enjoyed the activity and were thrilled that they could take their Cartesian divers to show other learners at their school that they are hooked on science.

First-time participant Grant van der Heever, described Scifest Africa as a memorable experience. "It was an eye-opening experience for me to observe the deep academic divide between learners of similar age groups owing to the effects of access and opportunity.

"This made me question the equality of school education in post-apartheid South Africa, but it also made me realise the importance of my role as a young African scientist. Henceforth, I will aim to continue to motivate and inspire the younger generation, as well as teach them about the importance of our oceans."

Elwandle intern Jennifer Mohale, also a first-time participant, said, "I would like to thank Scifest Africa for letting us communicate our science. This was a great opportunity for learners as they are not exposed to marine science often. It felt so good to share my knowledge and give career guidance to the learners."

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