On 23 and 24 July South Africa's top Grade 12 learners will once again gather at Mintek in Randburg to pit their skills against each other in the 2009 National Finals of MinquizTM, South Africa’s premier annual national science competition for schools.
This year’s competition will see the nine provincial teams competing for the honour of being crowned as the 2009 Minquiz National Champions. The team members making up the nine provincial teams went through a rigorous provincial competition in May, and are amongst the top Grade 12 learners in their provinces.
Minquiz combines the rigors of an Olympiad with the excitement of a live on-stage quiz to produce an entertaining competition which promotes excellence in both Physical Science and Mathematics. Questions are aligned with the National Curriculum Statement, and are taken mostly from the Grade 11 curriculum, with a few general knowledge questions in science and engineering thrown in for good measure. The competition is divided into two stages. The first stage is a challenging written test that identifies the top five teams which will progress to the second stage: the exciting but demanding oral quiz.
In the morning of 23 July all the learners participate in the individual written test. This is followed with a team-building activity that aims to get each provincial team working together, to assess each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and to bond as a cohesive unit in preparation for the oral quiz in which they compete as a team. Teams spend the day designing and constructing a soapbox car in which they race against the other teams, with prizes for best construction, best design and fastest time.
The main event on 24 July starts off with an egg-drop competition. Each finalist gets to test out their own construction, which they have designed and built at home, with the aim of protecting a raw egg when dropped from a height of three storeys. Scientific principles truly come into play when an irresistible force (the egg) meets an immovable object (solid concrete).
Following a motivational speech to enthuse and encourage the learners present, the tension builds again as the top five teams are announced to compete in the oral quiz. The finalists are determined based on the aggregate team members’ written test scores, so only the best of the best make it to this stage.
The first, second and third winning provincial team members each receive trophies and cash prizes of R650.00, R450.00 and R250.00 respectively, with half Kruger Rands from the Rand Refinery Limited going to the deserving six in the top team. In addition, the schools represented in first, second and third place receive cash prizes of R3 250.00, R2 250.00 and R1 250.00 respectively.
All learners receive a certificate of participation, with the two top learners in the written test receiving a trophy and a cash prize of R1 000 each. Learners who score 40% – 59% receive a certificate of merit; learners who score 60% – 79% receive a certificate of distinction; and learners who score 80% and above receive a certificate of excellence.
Mintek, South Africa's national Science Council for mineral processing, extractive metallurgy and related technology, first introduced the concept of Minquiz to a few schools in the Randburg area in 1988. Since then, the competition has grown by leaps and bounds, with 300 to 400 schools participating nationwide in recent years.
Minquiz has proved to be an extremely effective vehicle for unearthing the country’s top Maths and Science learners. The winner of the competition in 1990 (and now the Minquiz patron), our very own Mark Shuttleworth, partially owes his success to participating in Minquiz. The prize he won back then, his first PC, was the very computer that he used to start learning his craft as a programmer.