This year the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists International Science Fair has helped put hundreds of learners on the path to success by introducing them to the exciting world of science.

The Eskom Expo unearths young scientists with potential in order to encourage them to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering, maths and innovation (STEMI) fields.

These budding scientists were recognised and rewarded at the Eskom Expo final prize-giving ceremony on 28 September. The awards were presided over by Eskom CEO Brian Dames and Deputy Minister of Science & Technology Advocate Michael Masutha.

Masutha comments: “South Africa can’t benefit from our plentiful natural resources unless we beneficiate our most critical natural resource by skilling and educating our people. I would like to join hands in congratulating our many stars who are being born right here. You are our future.”

This year 62 gold medals, 165 silver medals and 132 bronze medals were handed out to the most outstanding projects.

Dames was impressed with the standard of the projects this year. He comments: “The last few days we have been celebrating the best that we have to offer, our young people. All of you are winners!”

The Eskom Expo, which is endorsed by the Department of Science and Technology, sees learners from 29 regions across the country competing for a ticket to the prestigious Eskom Expo International Science Fair (ISF). Of the 5 604 learners who participate at a regional level only the top 878 are selected to represent their regions at a national level.

“The Eskom Expo is a great demonstration of power of partnerships between government, business, , teachers, learners and parents,” Dames says.

At the ISF learners presented their projects to a panel of judges that included professional scientists and educators in a bid to take home a medal or special prize or a prized ticket to an International Science Fair.

This year special awards were awarded to some of the most outstanding participants in South Africa’s largest school-level science fair. The special awards are sponsored by Eskom and several other organisations and universities. Prizes include books, laptops, iPads, cash prizes and university bursaries.

The most prestigious special awards are awarded by Eskom to the Best Overall Project, Best Female Project, Best High School Development Project, Best Primary School Development Project, Best Energy Project and Best Energy Efficiency Project. They each win a laptop and the development winners also win a mobile science kit to upgrade the science facilities at their schools.

Eskom group executive: sustainability and Eskom Expo champion, Dr Steve Lennon, says: “These learners have put in lots of time and effort into their projects and it is great to see so many passionate young scientists. I am inspired, as the challenges we are faced with in society can be dealt with through science and technology and these young people will be helping to find those solutions.”

The Eskom Overall winner and winners of the Eskom Special Award for Best High School Development Project was given to Pule Liatile and Mawethu Ndiki for their project titled “The mechanics of a falling water droplet”.

The pair of Grade 11 learners from Harmony High School in Welkom, Free State also took home a gold medal and were category winners in the physics, astronomy and space sciences category. They studied the behaviour of the water droplet to determine if there is a relationship between the height and depth of a crater and rebound created by a water droplet.

The Eskom Special Award for Best Female project went to Namita Biju, a Grade 8 learner from Zinniavile Secondary School in Rustenberg. She wanted to determine which biomass produced the most methane gas using a biogas. She compared the effectiveness of cow dung, horse dung, rotten bananas and apples and found that cow dung was most effective and also took home a gold medal for her project.

The Eskom Award for Best Energy Project was awarded to Danielle Jacobson for her project titled “Use of nanotechnology in the optimisation of microbial fuel cells”. Danielle is a Grade 12 learner from Camps Bay High School in Cape Town.

Danielle who also won a gold medal and was the category winner in the alternative and renewable energy category was participating for the second time. She used her previous experience and the exposure she gained at the Intel International Science Fair in Phoenix Arizona to improve on her project.

She investigated how bacteria and Nano fibre electrodes could be used to increase the electrical output of microbial fuel cells. She maximised the area of the electrode to make it viable for commercial use in the future and this year included yeast particles treated with superparamagnetic nanoparticles to increase the voltage and current outputs of the microbial cell.

The Eskom Award for Best Energy Efficiency Project was awarded to Gaby Hattingh and Jessica Muller for their project “Portable heat starting at your feet”.

The Grade 10 learners from Eunice High School in Bloemfontein developed a portable, cost-effective and energy efficient heater designed to be placed under a carpet to heat your feet. They were inspired to invent a heater they could use in their draughty classrooms. They also won a gold medal and were category winners of the energy efficiency and energy conservation category.

The Eskom Award for the Best Rural Primary School went to Little Flower Combined School from southern KwaZulu-Natal.

The winner of the Eskom Award for the Best Rural High School was awarded to Focused High School from Umthatha for their impressive array of submissions to this year’s Eskom Expo.

This year has been a momentous year for the Eskom Expo as not only has it seen an impressive number of projects submitted by 483 females but it is also the second year that international participants from Ghana, Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda, Malawi, Tanzania, Swaziland and Lesotho attended the expo.

Parthy Chetty, Eskom Expo for Young Scientists executive director, comments: “South Africa wants to establish itself as a hub of science research and excellence. In order to do that South Africa needs to be producing outstanding scientists, researchers and technicians and attract top talent from around the world. By hosting young scientists from Africa we are exposing them to the exciting world of science in South Africa and we are starting to make that vision a reality.”