By ZIMKITA LINYANA and SIVE GINYA
Ali Rizvi of Graeme College and Caca Hobongwana of Kingswood College will represent the Makhanda sub-region at the prestigious Eskom Expo for Young Scientists International Science Fair (ISF) after winning gold for their projects at the Makhanda regionals on Saturday, 6 August.
Rizvi and Hobongwana will compete against the best young scientists from around the country and worldwide. Makhanda is one of 35 Expo regions in South Africa.
Learners from Victoria Girls High, Ntsika Secondary School, Hoerskool PJ Olivier, and Oatlands Prep school also scooped awards.
Scifest Africa manager and regional director for Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, Samridhi Sharma, congratulated the winners and told those who didn’t win, “It’s just a start – it’s a learning curve for next years”.
Provincial Coordinator at Eskom Expo for Young Scientists Fredy Mashate said it was exciting to be back face-to-face after a two-year hiatus supplemented with an online version.
“It is especially exciting for the learners. They were looking forward to returning to the physical interaction”.
However, he lamented the decline in entries to the Expo. “In 2019, we were at our peak, when we had our best numbers – about 200 projects. We now have 67 – a huge decline,” he said. He attributed the decline to the pandemic and said it was the current national status quo in all 35 Eskom Expo regions and not unique to Makhanda.
“One has to consider the huge impact of Covid-19 and the crop of learners that might have been lost over the years – we are at that stage of rebuilding.”
“The overall quality has dropped nationally and can be attributed to a variety of factors such as the curriculum needing to be trimmed over the past two years, there is a lot that learners need to catch up with – the schooling system had slowed down and is demanding and if Eskom Expo is seen as something that is extracurricular it will always take the second seat.”
“We want Eskom Expo to be seen as something aligned with the curriculum because some of the concepts we teach, such as the scientific methodology, are embedded in the curriculum. So, we are trying to get schools to see that it’s not separate. It is complementary to what they are already doing,” Mashate said.
Best female project: Caca Hobongwana of Kingswood College for a project titled, “Mind matters: mental health research task”. Hobongwana also won the Gold Prize in absentia.
Best energy project: Luke Williams of Kingswood College for a project titled, “Why is my cellphone not charged yet?”
Best innovation project: Makubechosi Dofi of Funda High School for a project titled, “How useful solar panels can be for motorized wheelchairs”. Dosi designed and built a motorized wheelchair with a solar panel which acts as the electric server and converter. Dosi said he was involved in a car accident in Grade 4 and was almost paralyzed; this experience made him passionate about finding sustainable solutions for those who continue to need assisted mobility through wheelchairs.
He said the first electric wheelchair was the Klein Drive Chair, invented by Canadian inventor George Klein and his team in 1953 and made to assist veterans injured at war. Still, it relied solely on electricity which is not always accessible, especially in South Africa. “Using solar power will make the wheelchair’s energy supply unlimited,” he said. Dofi used everyday materials, including cotton wool, steel wire, brown tape, rubber bands, AA batteries, and cardboard.
He also installed an inverter and an aligned solar panel. Dofi says these findings improve the limitations of the electric-powered wheelchair, whose batteries never have a backup and always require electric power for recharging.
Best Development Project: Sisipho Jali of Nstika High School for a project titled, “The effect of salt on the boiling temperature of water”. Jali found that salt increases the boiling point of water. “For salty water to boil, the temperature must be higher than 100 degrees Celsius”. Jali was motivated by her love and fascination with physical and analytical chemistry.
Wessa Sable Antelope: Angus Brown and Andrew Woods of Kingswood College, for their project titled “Easily purify water at home”.
The Silver award winners: Carissa Henning of Hoerskool PJ Olivier; Emihle Philips, Lathitha Stofile and Lathitha Gxekwa of Victoria Girls High; Jade Jansen, Siyamthanda Hale and Julia Whyle of Oatlands Prep School.
The Bronze award winners: Babalo Duma of Victoria Girls High School; Onesisa Nqayi of Ekuphumleni Secondary School; Ackon Dwesi of Zolani Secondary School; Phawu Hlana, Mvelo Mqondela, Mahle Duda, Buthabile Gidana of Oatlands Prep School; Khwezilomso Melithafa and Liyabukwa Dyantyi of Nstika Secondary School and Asanda Mphumela.
The Eskom Expo coincided with the final day of National Science Week, whose purpose is to illustrate the role of science in tackling problems and challenges encountered in creating and sustaining a prosperous society and to raise science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) career awareness.
Rhodes University Chemistry Honours students and the Deputy Dean of Science Joyce Sewry presented ‘The Pollutant’s Tale’ to Expo participants.