Young scientists tackle South Africa’s water and energy challenges

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THIS year the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists welcomed over 600 pupils to compete in the prestigious International Science Fair (ISF), with the hope of taking home a share of the R4-million worth of prizes up for grabs.

The winner of the Eskom Best Female Award was Khilona Piyarlall, right, a Grade 9 pupil from Scottburgh High in KwaZulu-Natal, who received her award from Thava Govender of Eskom

These enthusiastic young innovators came to represent their schools after successfully progressing through the regional-level science fairs. They represent a cohort of young people who have discovered a passion for the sciences through the Eskom Expo and are interested in careers in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics or innovation fields

“The shortage of engineers and other technical experts is a major challenge in this country. That’s why at Eskom we are particularly concerned with investing in the development of young scientists and engineers, to help develop solutions to our energy and water needs so that the country can continue to grow in a sustainable way,” explained Thava Govender, Eskom group executive: transmission / acting group executive: risk and sustainability.

It is within this context that Eskom awards four special awards to the best female, best development, best energy and best energy efficiency projects. They also award three university bursaries – to the value of R444 000 each – to outstanding Grade 12 pupils to allow them to cover their tertiary studies at a university of their choice.

Fiona Khoza, a Grade 12 pupil from Mahhushe Agricultural High School in Mpumalanga took home one of the bursaries, for her solar tracking device system

This year several of the special award and bursary winners looked to solve the country’s energy and water crisis.

Fiona Khoza, a Grade 12 pupil from Mahhushe Agricultural High School in Mpumalanga took home one of the bursaries, for her solar tracking device system. Fiona’s creation is a solar tracking device designed to harness more energy by tracking the movement of the sun. The system is made from various electrical components, which enables the solar panel to move from east to west. The device is automatically controlled by software to optimise the power generation.

Another bursary winner was Joshua Boa-Amponsem, a Grade 12 pupil from Empangeni High School in KwaZulu-Natal. Joshua built a machine that produces water directly from ambient air by condensing the water vapour in the atmosphere and storing it for use. In future he wants to power the device using solar power, to make it more energy efficient.

Bursary winner Joshua Boa-Amponsem, a Grade 12 pupil from Empangeni High School in KwaZulu-Natal

This year the winner of the Eskom Best Female Award was Khilona Piyarlall, a Grade 9 pupil from Scottburgh High in KwaZulu-Natal. Khilona’s water dispenser for animals was inspired by her family pets and the need to make sure they had water when the family was away. The device automatically dispenses water, shutting down automatically when it’s full to prevent wastage. Khilona’s machine also has software that can be programmed and connected to a SIM card and will notify you when the reservoir is full or has run dry. Khilona believes the device can be used at home, at game reserves and on farms to reduce water wastage while ensuring animals are kept well hydrated.

The Eskom Best Development Project Award went to Kamogelo Rakgetse, a Grade 11 pupil from Abraham Serote Secondary School in Limpopo for his Maglev power station

The Eskom Best Development Project Award went to Kamogelo Rakgetse, a Grade 11 pupil from Abraham Serote Secondary School in Limpopo for his Maglev power station. Kamogelo built a model of a magnetic power station that produces electric energy using potential energy from magnets.

His focus is on solving the energy crisis by offering an alternative and eco-friendly power source. Kamogelo’s design comes from an application exploiting the principle of magnetic induction between materials with different permeability. The technology allows the drive shaft to levitate in a stable and safe way, without the need for external power making it a much more cost-effective power source than traditional fossil fuel based power stations.

Pieter Pretorius, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, said Eskom is proud to sponsor the Eskom Expo. “Many talented young South Africans have trouble accessing tertiary education in this country so it’s really exciting to be able to provide education support to these young people. The Eskom Expo presents pupils with a stepping stone towards their tertiary education and professional careers while also contributing to the private sector and government’s long-term plans.”

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