Contribute from your CSI budget to inspire young scientists

July 4th, 2017, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: EngineerIT


At industry conferences held in recent months, there have been urgent calls for companies to contribute some of their corporate social investment (CSI) activities to projects that encourage science projects at school level. Spokespeople for several industry associations and tertiary institutions agreed that South Africa’s skills shortages are not being addressed timeously in the education cycle. It has to start at school level.

Learners need to get an early grasp of what the world of work is about and that maths and science are important for their future. For too long now, young people have believed that engineering is not “cool”. Are the current engineers and scientists perhaps to blame for this because they do not talk about their careers as being “cool”? If we as engineers do not inspire teachers and learners that science and engineering are great and rewarding careers, who will?

The annual Eskom Expo for Young Scientists offers a great opportunity for companies to support this call to get learners involved in science and engineering at an early age.

Support the Hendrik van der Bijl Awards programme by sponsoring one or more awards at R7000 each.  Companies get to select which category they prefer to support and have the opportunity to sponsor a staff member for a day to judge and interact with learners.

Chris Yelland with James Manelisi Silinda, a grade 11 learner at the Steenbok High School in Ehlanzeni, Mpumalanga who won the 2016 EE sponsored Henrik van der Bijl award for his entry “A barcode scanner trolley “ in the innovation and technology category under the title “How to reduce queues in shops”.

The expo has been presented 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. The expo is committed to the development of a strong base of educated and skilled South Africans in the fields of  science, technology, engineering and mathematics (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.  These awards for excellence at the expo had their origins in 2001 when the Faraday Awards, originally sponsored by the London-based Institution of Engineering and Technology, were introduced. The Hendrik van der 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 awards are typically for the sum of R7000, which is paid directly to the winner as a fund for future science projects, purchase of a computer or tablet or even to save 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 entry from a township or rural school.

The Hendrik van der Bijl Awards organisers invite companies and individuals to invest in our youth by sponsoring awards for the 2017 Expo for Young Scientists national finals to be held from 3 to 6 October  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 or Hans van de Groenendaal, Tel 082 781 4631,

Eskom Science Expo inspires student to become a computer engineer

Avarn Kooblal

Avarn Kooblal was involved in thecexpo from a young age when he registered while in primary school for the Eskom Science Expo. He continued to participate through high school and he is now a judge for the KZN region.

He said that the expo experience helped him to build his confidence, self-esteem and public speaking, which led to him being involved in debating. “I learnt from a young age to research, analyse and design and find solutions. I read widely, became more knowledgeable, curious, explored and learned on my own. The expo encouraged me to think outside the box and find solutions to real world problems.”

The expo encourages learners to go beyond the standard textbook syllabus to learn more about what exists in the world in an ethical manner. The expo provides an opportunity to interact and network with other like-minded individuals. The various competition rounds and prizes encourages students to work harder each year in order to win a prize.

He said “You don’t have to perform a science experiment or be involved in biology or physical science. I started with a simple project of building a steam car to now building an advanced sensor network, analysing a real world electrical substation.

“Taking part in the Eskom Science Expo inspired me to study and become a computer engineer. I enjoy using technology, computing and electronics to solve problems. The expo gave me the hands on practical experience that I didn’t get at school. This experience helped me throughout university and now my working career when delivering and creating presentations.

“Elon Musk and Mark Shuttleworth are an inspiration to South Africans for doing great things in this world. We have a skills shortage in South Africa and this country doesn’t just need more engineers, technicians and scientists, but  also young boffins that are willing to break the boundaries of conventional thinking.”

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