An all-in-one school bag made from a plastic water drum? And a recycled one at that? Sounds almost too good to be true, but that’s the brainchild of Bulelani Nkupane and Nandipha Boyce of Masibambane Secondary School near Kraaifontein.
They recently received a medal for their invention at the annual Stellenbosch regional finals of the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, where Grade 7 to 12 learners from the Boland, Cape Town’s northern suburbs and the Southern Cape showcase their scientific and innovative projects. Their school bag also secured the duo a spot in the Stellenbosch regional team to participate in the national finals in Gauteng during the September school holidays.
Other interesting projects that caught my eye this year was the braai lamp that Christian Marais of Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch designed and a study on how temperature influence the Vitamin C contents of oranges and oranges by Murphy Fourie of Rhenish Girls’ High in Stellenbosch. Bellville High’s Janru Hanekom used his own home to learn how much money can be saved if we use basic energy-saving tips, such as switching off unnecessary lights and electrical equipment not in use. Melody Samuels and Ver-Lynne Herbert of New Orleans Secondary in Paarl now know much more about handwriting analysis thanks to their project about graphology, while Migael Moelich is the guy to ask if you want to know the best method to use to ripen avocados.
For nearly ten years now, I’ve been helping at the annual Stellenbosch regional competition, either taking photographs of all the participants or writing short articles afterwards about the various medal winners. I’ve also had the opportunity to twice help with the judging at the national competition in Gauteng. And every time I’ve been involved with it, I stand amazed at just how much ingenuity and know-how there are among South Africa’s youth. They can enter in 25 categories, ranging from health and medical matters to engineering and mathematical problems, topics in the agricultural and environmental sector to electricity and renewable energy studies. The diversity of topics they come up with is astounding.
And remember, most do not have access to research laboratories or fancy equipment when they do their studies. Take the example of Bianca Cromhout and Hannah Boyes of Bloemhof Girls’ High in Stellenbosch for instance. To work out the link between temperature and the sound of speed, they used a good old hairdryer to get the temperatures that they needed to run their tests!
Yes, it’s true, supportive parents and teachers play an important role in the success of each science project. Ultimately though, it’s up to the kids to impress the judges with their passion and know-how about their projects.
There’s hope in yonder tunnel yet!