Thursday, 6 June 2013

Eskom Expo for Young Scientists’ do South Africa proud at prestigious international science fair in Phoenix, Arizona

Supernova is super proud of these young science geniuses! In them we place much hope for the future of our beautiful country!

Nine South African learners have returned from the prestigious Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) held from 12 to 17 May in Phoenix, Arizona, USA clutching awards and prizes for their outstanding projects.

These learners did exceptionally well in the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists International Science Fair in 2012 and were, therefore, selected to represent South Africa at the largest science fair in the world.

Each year, more than seven million high school students from over 70 countries and regions compete in local and national science fairs with the hope of reaching Intel ISEF. Only 1 500 of those hopefuls are named finalists and given the opportunity to attend the science fair, where they are able to share their ideas, showcase their projects and compete for over US$ 4 million in awards and scholarships.

Even fewer walk away with awards, but this year South African learners: Danielle Mallabone, Philippe Lothaller, Ben Langer, Danielle Jacobson and Retselisitsoe Monyake were acknowledged for their scientific projects.

Danielle Jacobson, a budding scientist from Camps Bay High School, won a special award of a Renewable Tuition Scholarship Award to the value $50 000 from West Virginia University. This was for her investigation into how bacteria and Nano fibre electrodes could be used to increase the electrical output of microbial fuel cells.

She looked at maximising the area of the electrode to make it viable for commercial use in the future and the judges were so impressed that they offered her a four-year scholarship to West Virginia University.

Jacobson says: “I was sitting on the edge of my seat during the special awards and when they announced my name I was so happy - It’s great that I have done well for South Africa.”

Another winner was Ben Langer from Herzlia High School in Cape Town. Langer won the New American University Provost Scholarship, a comprehensive scholarship to study for four years at Arizona State University. In addition to this scholarship, Langer also won a one-time US$2 500 award to conduct research from the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

Langer is a keen chemist and looked at ways to increases the thrust of rocket fuel. He found that it was possible to add small accelerants to rocket fuel to increase the thrust; ultimately increasing the power to weight ratio.

Langer also took home the fourth place award and US$500 in the chemistry category at the Grand Awards Ceremony.

Another prize winner was Phillipe Lothaller, a matric student at Rondebosch Boys' High School. He won a cash prize of $7500 from the United Airlines Foundation.

Lothaller has always been fascinated by airplanes and after seeing the puff of smoke that comes off airplane wheels after landing, he decided to look into modifying airplane wheels to reduce wear and tear.

He discovered that by attaching large scoops to the wheels, the amount of friction created on landing was reduced and this, in turn, reduced the wear and tear on the wheels.

Danielle Mallabone, a Grade 11 learner from St Teresa’s High School in Johannesburg, received a Special Award of US$1000 from the American Intellectual Property Law Association for her innovative life-jacket attachment.

Mallabone was concerned by the number of deaths caused by hypothermia following boating or plane accidents and so she decided to develop a life-jacket attachment that prevents hypothermia by producing heat on contact with water.

She says: “I would definitely encourage other learners to enter the Eskom Expo. I never thought I had an impressive project throughout the regional and national finals, but you never know that someone else might see value in your project.”

The final prize was awarded to Retselisitsoe Monyake. Monyake, a 17 year old student from Harmony High School in Virginia, also took home a fourth place Grand Award and US$500 in the mathematical sciences category at the Grand Awards Ceremony. Monyake had developed an alternative proof of the Pappus Chain Theorem, using the method of circle inversion.

He said: “We have a problem with maths at our school and the problem is the way people look at maths. I wanted to change their minds, my proof is visual and it gives people another perspective on maths.”

A key component of the “true South Africa” and one of our most valuable resources is the vast number of bright young minds – particularly in the scientific field – continuously emerging and proposing innovative solutions to the challenges faced by our country and the world at large.

It is these bright young minds that the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists so values, recognises and rewards. Executive Director of the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, Parthy Chetty said: “For the past 15 years our team has always come back with an award. This is a fantastic achievement and this shows that if we commit to this we can achieve in international arenas. We believe the continued support of Intel ISEF is imperative because maths and science cannot be separated from future global growth. The competition encourages millions of students to engage their skills for innovation and develop promising solutions for global challenges.”

Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, who visited the learners at the airport to wish them good luck for the competition, said: “I was struck that you have found innovative ways to address some of our societal challenges and I hope you gain knowledge, contacts and culture enrichment.”

All the learners remarked that one of the things they enjoyed most about the trip was meeting like-minded peers from around the world and engaging with them on a meaningful level. Jacobson said: “It is mind blowing to see normal teenagers doing such amazing things and the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists is great for encouraging young scientists. I didn’t think it would go anywhere but it has. It’s been a lot of hard work but it’s rewarding hard work!”

The group were all incredibly grateful to Eskom and Intel for affording them this opportunity. Mallabone said: “I want to say a huge thank you to all the sponsors, the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, Eskom and Intel. It really has been a life-changing experience.” 

Press release distributed by Grounded Media

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