Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Eskom Expo for Young Scientists

Ofentse Litsele, winner of the Eskom
Award for Best Development project,
with Mr Parthy Chetty, Chairman of the
Eskom Expo for Young Scientists
Supernova went to check out the northern Gauteng regional finalists of the annual Expo for Young Scientists,the biggest science fair in South Africa for grade 5 to 12 learners. The expo was held at LC de Villiers, the University of Pretoria's sports grounds, from 31 August to 1 September. The expo showcased 389 projects from 52 schools and over 517 learners. We were more than impressed with the bright ideas we found there.

Launched in 1980, the Eskom Expo brings together learners, teachers, parents and educational bodies from all over South Africa and aims to encourage young South Africans to explore the variety of careers open to them and increase awareness of the wonders of science, technology, engineering, maths and innovation.

Learners can enter in over 25 categories, ranging from alternative and renewable energy right through to physics and astronomy, and they are all competing to be selected to participate in the prestigious national finals from 4 to 6 October 2012 in Boksburg, Johannesburg.

There is variety of fantastic prizes up for grabs at the national finals, including a mobile science lab, laptops, university bursaries and much more.

Marlene Meyer, winner of the
Eskom Award for Best Female project,
with Mr Parthy Chetty
Out of the 253 female learners from Gauteng who entered this year, Hoƫrskool Waterkloof Grade 9 learner Marlene Meyer walked away with the Eskom Award for Best Female project for her plant science project entitled 'Mysterious fairy circles', aimed at finding the cause of fairy circles (grassless patches of vegetation) in the Namib desert.

My project took me five months to complete and this involved reading up on plants of southern Africa, testing various plant species and extensive online research,” says Meyer. She conducted numerous tests to identify what caused the fairy circles and concluded that these resulted from a poisoning of the area by a plant species called Euphorbia.

My big sister, who had participated in the Eskom Expo, was very supportive. She encouraged me when my plant samples would fail and I had to start all over. Some of the challenges I encountered included the various plant species I used during my investigation drying - before producing results.”

Meyer’s biggest lesson from her science project was that “there is an answer for all questions.”

Juggling school, homework, studying for the exams and his Eskom Expo project didn’t stop Modiri Secondary School grade 10 learner Ofentse Litsele from taking home the Eskom Award for Best Development project.

My project was an improvement of my last year’s entry, and this year I won,” smiled Ofentse.

After observing severe damage caused by invasive alien plants in his neighbourhood, Ofentse decided to come up with a solution to eradicate invasive alien plants. Ofentse investigated an alternative and environmentally friendly manner of eradicating invasive plant species by using mycoherbicides, a fungus that works as a chemical plant killer. “The spores of the mycoherbicide penetrate the plant tissue causing a disease that kills the alien species.”

Pretoria Boys High School took home two of the top awards. Grade 10 learners Levi Benjamin Homann and Paul Kim were awarded the Eskom Award for Best Energy Efficiency project for their 'Solar Powered Fish' project. The Eskom Award for Best Energy Efficiency project went to Grade 10 learners Sonke Mkhabela and Matthew Keevy for their 'Eco Lights' project.

At the regional finals, 77 gold medals were awarded, 126 silver and 97 bronze. From the 77 gold medals, a delegation of 36 projects were selected to attend the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists National Finals.

Regional Director Awie Duvenage says, “We are proud of all our learners and congratulate our delegation of 30 heading to the nationals in October. We know they will fly the northern Gauteng flag high.”

For more information about the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, please visit:

The Supernova team would like to congratulate all the learners that took part for contributing their amazing ideas to science. Your initiative and dedication is inspiring! We wish the finalists all the best at the nationals!

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