Awards for learners on the road to science

July 1st, 2015, Published in Articles: Energize, Articles: EngineerIT


The spirit of adventure lies buried in every man’s soul. Strike the spark and ignite the soul and the impossible is accomplished – William I Orr


“Smart home automation”-  Daverin Nadesan  of Star College  in KwaZulu-Natal won one of the Hendrik van der Bijl awards in the Computer Science and Applications section for grades 10, 11 and 12

“Smart home automation”- Daverin Nadesan of Star College in KwaZulu-Natal won one of the Hendrik van der Bijl awards in the Computer Science and Applications section for grades 10, 11 and 12

When in the early sixties William I. Orr, author of many books on communication, wrote these words it was the beginning of the space age, a period of intense focus on science and innovation. Those same words could be written today about the young people who enter the annual Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. It is that spark that ignites their interest in science, not only as a subject in the classroom, but as a passion to explore the opportunities it presents to research something interesting that could have a bearing on their future careers.

The Eskom Expo for Young Scientists has been an annual event for over three decades and has established itself as the premier exposition for South African youth to demonstrate their innovation in the fields of science and technology. Founded by the late Dr. Derek Gray in 1980, 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.

engineerit---july---box-of-textThe Expo is committed to the development of a strong base of educated and skilled South Africans in the fields of STEM.

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.

To 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, introduced the “Hendrik van der Bijl Awards”, in recognition of his contribution to science and engineering on numerous fronts. Hans van de Groenendaal and Dr. Smithies convene these awards.

The Hendrik van de Bijl Awards are 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 Hendrik van der Bijl Award judges are drawn from donors and donor organisations, so that each may not only represent the sponsor’s interests, but be de facto broad-based, with awards available for all aspects of STEM and innovation exhibited at the Expo. The awards are typically for an amount of R5000 which is paid directly into the winner’s savings account to be used for future science projects or as a basis to start saving for 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 entries from township or rural schools.

In 2014 the response from industry was exceptional: sponsoring R112 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 a SKA bursary; a Raspberry Pi with all accessories from RS Components South Africa; and science books donated by the US mission in South Africa. Companies who sponsored the cash awards were: ABB, Actom, AEL Mining Service’s, Communica, Context Relevant, Copper Development Association of South Africa, DetNet South Africa, EE Publishers, Eon Consulting, Explolabs, Hatch Goba, ITC Services, National Instruments, South African Radio League, Society of Telkom Engineers, Steinmüller Africa and Victor Solomon & Associates.

The Hendrik van der Bijl Awards organisers invite companies and individuals to invest in our youth by sponsoring awards for the 2015 Expo for Young Scientists national finals to be held from 5 – 8 October 2015 at the Birchwood conference centre in Boksburg, Gauteng. To become a sponsor and award a learner on the road to science contact Dr. Stafford Smithies, Tel 082 785-0195, or Hans van de Groenendaal, Tel 082 781-4631,

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