Help build a knowledge economy by supporting science projects

June 30th, 2016, Published in Articles: EngineerIT

 

The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, often speaks about the importance of building a knowledge economy for South Africa and that public-private partnerships are required to achieve this. There are many opportunities for companies to direct a small percentage of their social responsibility or marketing budgets to help build the foundation of where South Africa needs to start to achieve this vision. The Eskom Expo for Young Scientists is one of those initiatives that makes a major contribution to build and reward the passion for science at school level.

Harnessing engergy from from coal ash won Njabulo Mathanti and Lungelo Sigudia each R5000 sponsored by EE Publishers and the Society of Telkom Engineers. The purpose of the project is to utilise the by-product that results from coal combustion in coal power stations to form an electrochemical cell. Ash is the by-product of coal combustion and the aim is to use this waste to prevent environmental concerns that are caused by the disposal of ash.

Harnessing energy from coal ash won Njabulo Mathanti and Lungelo Sigudia each R5000 sponsored by EE Publishers and the Society of Telkom Engineers. The purpose of the project is to utilise the by-product that results from coal combustion in coal power stations to form an electrochemical cell. Ash is the by-product of coal combustion and the aim is to use this waste to prevent environmental concerns that are caused by the disposal of ash.

The expo has been presented for over three decades and has established itself as a premier exposition for South African youth to demonstrate their innovation in the fields of science and technology. It was founded by the late Dr. Derek Gray in 1980 and it has, since then, provided an opportunity for school learners from primary school to Grade 12, who have an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), to exhibit their projects and to be judged on their skills and enthusiasm for science.

The expo is committed to the development of a strong base of educated and skilled South Africans in the STEM fields. The judging criteria are based on the scientific work and effort that goes into the project, the initiative displayed and the scientific method followed by the learner, coupled with the quality of the findings and the scientific and technical skills that the learner develops. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded at the regional and national finals. A number special awards also recognise outstanding projects and selected learners are offered the opportunity to participate in international science fairs.

p11To stimulate the direct involvement of sponsors in expo awards and bring industry on board, Dr. Stafford Smithies, consultant, VSA and Chris Yelland, MD of EE Publishers and the author of this article, introduced the Hendrik van der Bijl Awards, in recognition of his contribution to science and engineering on numerous fronts. These awards for excellence at expo had their origins in 2001 when Faraday Awards, originally sponsored by the London-based Institution of Engineering and Technology, were introduced.

The Hendrik van de Bijl Awards provides an easy way for sponsors – either individual or corporate – to become involved and invest in learners who, at a young age, have shown an interest in the world of science. The awards are typically in an amount of R5000 which is paid directly to the winner as a fund for future science projects, purchase of a computer or tablet or even to save towards tertiary education.

To simplify the handling of award funds, EE Publishers administers the financial aspects of the awards programme free of charge and, in addition, provides a special award for the best entry from a rural school.

In 2015 the response from industry resulted in R101 000 in prize money; an all-expenses paid visit to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) site in Carnarvon, Northern Cape, and an opportunity to be interviewed for an SKA bursary; and a Raspberry Pi with all accessories from RS Components South Africa. Companies who sponsored the cash awards were: ABB, Actom, BME, Context Relevant, Copper Development Association of South Africa, DetNet South Africa, EE Publishers, Eon Consulting, Explolabs, Hatch Goba, ITC Services, South African Radio League, and the Society of Telkom Engineers.

The Hendrik van der Bijl Awards organisers invite companies and individuals to invest in our youth by sponsoring awards for the 2016 Expo for Young Scientists national finals to be held from 4 to 7 October 2016 at the Birchwood Conference Centre in Boksburg. To become a sponsor and award a learner on the road to science, contact Dr. Stafford Smithies, Tel 082 785-0195, stafford@vsaconsult.com; Hans van de Groenendaal, Tel 082 781-4631, hans.vandegroenendaal@ee.co.za or Steyn van der Merwe, Tel: 084 740-0724, steynvdm@gmail.com

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