2014 Eskom Expo for Young Scientists Showcases Early Innovators
Over 60 schools represented by 375 learners participated in the recent 2014 Eskom Expo for Young Scientists co-hosted by UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science. The Expo, held at the Old Mutual Sports Centre, Howard College campus, attracted 331 project displays in 25 categories ranging from Environmental Studies to Engineering, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Innovation.
Eskom Expo is South Africa’s primary national science fair for learners and is endorsed by the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Basic Education. It involves the submission of innovative Science and Technology projects by young scientists to judges at school, regional, national and international level, and is directly linked to the government’s national strategies to improve the output and quality of skilled technical graduates. The Eskom Expo was founded in 1980 as a non-profit organisation and operates in 28 regions in all nine provinces.
The event took place over two days with a public viewing on the second day allowing over 400 additional learners from various schools in and around Durban to visit.
The 208 judges comprised experts from UKZN, Eskom, the provincial departments of Education and Agriculture, Mangosuthu University of Technology, and the Durban University of Technology.
Chief judge Mr Yashin Brijmohan said organisers were overwhelmed by the level of participation. ‘It takes not just great initiative and skills in science and research but also passion and commitment from the learners to develop such outstanding projects in the field of Engineering, Science and Technology. I think we should be proud of our South African learners. From the innovation and outstanding projects that we have seen, I think we have a great future ahead of us,’ he said.
Post-doctoral Researcher in the Centre for Quantum Technology and CEO of QZN Technology Dr Abdul Mirza said: ‘The learners showed great enthusiasm as they addressed practical challenges that they and their communities faced through science. Most projects, in every category, tried to achieve a home grown solution to a local challenge bringing a true sense of innovation to the event.’
Dr Sarah White, a Researcher in the Centre for Algal Biotechnology at Mangosuthu University of Technology, said she thought more schools should prepare projects as the research skills gained by the learners during the process far outweigh the extra effort of getting a project to “Expo level”. ‘This will put the learners in good stead for careers in Science, Technology and Engineering,’ she said.
The event ended with an awards ceremony at which over 174 learners received medals and special prizes sponsored by various organisations. Thirty-two learners will join those from other regions to represent KwaZulu-Natal in the national finals.