Two local young scientists have won medals after impressing judges at the 2021 International Science and Invention Fair held in Indonesia. Their projects were inspired by issues faced by their communities.
Vera van der Merwe, from Calvinia in the Northern Cape who is currently in Grade 8 at Hoër Meisieskool Bloemhof in Stellenbosch, won a bronze medal at the science fair, which concluded on 1 November 2021. Van der Merwe developed fire briquettes in different combinations of milled Prosopis tree twigs and paper waste. She originally exhibited her work at the Stellenbosch Regional Expo for Young Scientists, presented by the Stellenbosch University Centre for Pedagogy (SUNCEP) in the Faculty of Education.
“I was very surprised to win a bronze medal, as I did not dare to expect too much. I know that I have a good project that would help a lot of people if it could get actioned. Taking part internationally was really amazing and was definitely a wonderful experience where I learnt a lot. It was nerve-wrecking and exciting to know that I'm participating in a world-class science fair, and I hope that by presenting my project to people overseas, it would plant the idea into their heads so that it can help communities globally," said Van der Merwe.
Danielle Pienaar, Grade 7 at C&N Primêre Meisieskool Oranje in the Free State, also won a bronze medal at the science fair, after presenting the project, 'What bait does flies find irresistible?'. The project aimed to develop a safe and cost-effective fly trap with items that were readily available, and to compare the effectiveness of store-bought bait versus affordable bait.
“I am very excited and proud that my project won a medal. I am a little bit surprised that the international judges found my project interesting, but I'm very happy that they did! Due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions, the judging sessions were held online. I only had seven minutes to present my project and impress the judges, followed by a few minutes of questions. I have learnt from the international judges' questions, and it has inspired me to improve my project and hopefully present the findings at other science fairs in the future," said Pienaar.
Eskom Group Executive: Government & Regulatory Affairs, Nthato Minyuku, congratulated the young scientists on their achievement, and said: “It is important for South African learners to be exposed to international science fairs, as it broadens their knowledge-base. In 2021, the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists provided opportunities for 16 learners to present their research projects at international science fairs, with two more international fairs coming up in November. This is one of the reasons why the Eskom Expo is a flagship project in Eskom. The aim is to invest in the development of young scientists and engineers, while encouraging more learners to take up science-orientated subjects and careers".
Eskom Expo Executive Director, Parthy Chetty, said: “We are really excited to see two young girls win on the international stage yet again. Their hard work has paid off and they are real role models for other young scientists, especially girl learners. The achievements of our learners locally and internationally are only possible due to the platform created by Eskom Expo, and further supported by the many dedicated teachers and passionate volunteers across the country."