Encouraging youth in science and engineering careers



“Harnessing energy from space” – Nokwanda Mantshintshi of the Mahhushe Secondary School receiving the 2017 Hendrik van der Bijl Award sponsored by the Copper Development Association from Levine Warries. The association sponsored three R7000 awards in the 2017 awards programme. The aim of the project was to introduce a pollution free, unlimited energy source that will be used on earth using a geostationary power station (GSPS) with large scale solution to anthropogenic climate change and fossil fuel depletion.

If South Africa wants to grow a technology-based industry and build a knowledge economy it is imperative that learners in our schools are shown at an early age that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are fun subjects leading to “cool” careers. This is precisely the aim of the annual Eskom Expo for Young Scientists which encourages young people to become involved in science and engineering projects and compete at local, national and international level.

There is a continual debate between industry associations and tertiary institutions about whether South Africa’s skill shortages are being addressed too late in the education cycle. In a recent address at the launch of a MultiChoice and University of Pretoria partnership for machine learning, the deputy minister of education and training, Buti Manamela, said that as a country we need to embrace the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution and develop the necessary competencies by inclusion into our education and training sector. “To remain relevant, education and training institutions therefore need to ensure the development of knowledgeable and competent students, based on best practice, staying ahead of technology developments, and the delivery of subject matter through utilising technology.”

It has to start at school level. Learners need to get an early grasp of what the world of work is about, and realise that the maths and science they have to learn at school is vital for their future. It seems that young people believe that engineering is “not cool”. Perhaps the current pool of engineers and scientist are to blame for this because they do not promote their fields. If engineers and scientists do not inspire teachers and learners, or promote science and engineering as great and rewarding careers, who will?

The annual Eskom Expo for Young Scientists offers a great opportunity for companies to support this call to get learners involved in science and engineering at an early age. Companies can support the Hendrik van der Bijl Awards programme by sponsoring one or more awards at the national finals in October. Companies may select which category they prefer to support, and have the opportunity to dedicate a staff member for a day to judge and interact with learners. Awards are normally in an amount of R7000 to enable the winners to purchase and use their own IT equipment.

The expo has been presented for over three decades and has established itself as the premier exposition for South African youth to demonstrate their innovation in the fields of science and technology. The expo is committed to the development of a strong base of educated and skilled South Africans in the fields of STEM. The judging criteria are based on the scientific work and effort that goes into the project, the initiative displayed and the scientific method followed by the learner, coupled with the quality of the findings and the scientific and technical skills that the learner develops. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded at the regional and national finals. A number special awards also recognise outstanding projects and selected learners are offered the opportunity to participate in international science fairs.

To stimulate the direct involvement of sponsors in expo awards and bring industry on board, Dr Stafford Smithies, consultant for VSA and Chris Yelland, MD of EE Publishers, introduced the Hendrik van der Bijl Awards in recognition of Hendrik van der Bijl’s contribution to science and engineering on numerous fronts. These awards for excellence at the expo had their origins in 2001 when the “Faraday Awards”, then sponsored by the London-based Institution of Engineering and Technology, were introduced. The Hendrik van der Bijl Awards are an easy way for sponsors – either individual or corporate – to become involved and invest in learners who, at a young age, have shown an interest in the world of science.

The Hendrik van der Bijl Awards organisers invite companies and individuals to invest in our youth by sponsoring awards for the 2018 Expo for Young Scientists national finals to be held from 2 to 5 October at the Birchwood Conference Centre in Boksburg. To become a sponsor and award a learner on the road to science, contact Hans van de Groenendaal, 082 781-4631, hans@intekom.co.za who administers the this year’s Hendrik van der Bijl awards programme; or contact Dr Stafford Smithies, 082 785-0195, staffordsmithies.consult@gmail.com, an adviser to the programme.

 

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Source: EE plublishers

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