Two budding young scientists from South Africa have received awards at the 2024 Taiwan International Science Fair (TISF) after successfully showcasing their research projects to judges and their peers at the National Taiwan Science Education Center in Taipei.
Johannes Jacobus (Jaco) Deysel, a Grade 11 learner at Hoërskool Jim Fouché in the Free State’s Bloemfontein region was awarded the Fourth Award in the Computer Science and Information Engineering category; while Lethabo Molobi, a Grade 12 learner at Zinniaville Secondary School in the North West’s Bojanala region, was awarded the Fourth Award and the Viewer’s Choice Award in the Behavioural and Social Sciences category at one of the world’s most prestigious science fairs.
Deysel showcased his research project entitled “Breaking a Caesar Cipher/Vigenère Cipher Encryption for secure data communication”. This project aimed to identify vulnerabilities in ciphers and explore the factors influencing the strength of an encryption system by breaking both Caesar and Vigenère Ciphers.
“Receiving recognition at a prestigious international science event was a tremendous honour for me,” says Deysel. “Being surrounded by some of the brightest minds of our generation was an experience that will forever resonate with me. Moreover, I had the opportunity to see the most beautiful places while learning about many unique cultures and traditions which greatly enriched my perspective in many ways.”
Deysel encouraged aspiring young scientists to continue being curious. “You are allowed to disagree and seek your own answers or solutions,” he says. “Do not allow others to tell you that you ‘can’t do it’, because you can. You are capable of so much more than what people tell you, so don’t take negative feedback to heart – use it as your driving force.”
Molobi exhibited her research project entitled “From Human Intelligence to Artificial Intelligence Chatbots: Modern Day Writing” which takes a look at whether it is easy to differentiate between Artificial intelligence (AI)-generated text and human-generated text, in a school setting.
“I am extremely happy with my award,” says Molobi. “Nothing makes me happier than seeing my hard work pay off. Taking part in the TISF was an amazing experience. I learned a lot from the other participants, and also about different countries and their cultural practices, because I interacted with many students from all around the world. Having been exposed to Taiwanese culture, the language, and the people was an experience I will always cherish.”
Molobi encouraged aspiring young scientists in the local community to make thoughtful selections when choosing a project category for their participation in the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. She emphasised the importance of commitment to a chosen research project, advocating for continuous effort and refinement.
The Acting CEO of the Eskom Development Foundation, Mologadi Motshele, congratulated the duo on their achievements.
“We are extremely proud of our learners’ success,” Motshele says. “Competing on the global stage and receiving recognition amid 630 young scientists from 27 countries is a commendable feat. Eskom’s commitment to investing in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation (STEMI) through the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists remains unwavering. The Expo is an excellent way to support and nurture the next generation of scientists and engineers, and creates a solid foundation for the development and progress of our country.”
Eskom Expo executive director, Parthy Chetty, adds: “This is a great to start to the new year, with this positive results from Taiwan. The Expo team of mentors has put in many hours of hard work during the December holidays to prepare these learners for the stringent competition and their efforts have paid off. These international competitions go further than just the academic activities by exposing the learners to various cultures – and is also the start of many friendships spanning across continents.”
Registration to take part in Eskom Expo 2024 is open. Learners in grades 4 to 12, along with NC2 to NC4 learners from TVET colleges, can register their projects by visiting www.exposcience.co.za.