At this year’s Eskom Expo International Science Fair, young scientists have reaped the benefits of their hard work and ingenuity, receiving full- and partial bursaries, cash prizes, laptops, tablet computers, and opportunities for work-based exposure during their school holidays.

The fair was held at the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre in Boksburg from 3 to 6 October 2023, and brought together the brightest young scientists from across South Africa and various countries around the world.

Title sponsor, Eskom awarded 23 full bursaries valued up to R450,000 each, and four Special Awards to the Best Female, Best Development, Best Energy and Best Innovation projects which were selected amongst entrants in the energy category.

The Eskom Special Award winners were:

Best Female: Likitha Chundru, a Grade 11 learner from Bryanston High School in Johannesburg was awarded the Eskom Best Female award. Chundru, who also won the Meiring Naudé Award for the most inspiring project, used a novel method to increase the germination and growth of non-legume plants using Rhizobium spp. Bacteria.

Best development project: The Eskom Award for the Best Development Project was won by Amogelang Mampane from Soshanguve Automotive School of Specialisation, a Grade 12 learner from the Northern Gauteng Region. Mampane impressed the Judges with his technical knowledge of electric cars.

Best Innovation Project: The Eskom Award for the Best Innovation Project was won by Keerthana Nair from Bryanston High School in Johannesburg. Nair found a quick and easy way to detect tuberculosis in sputum. Her innovation will be most significant for early tuberculosis detection in areas with limited medical resources.

Best energy project: This Eskom award was won by Sithembile Hlehliso and Kabelo Sekoere from Senakangwedi High School from Bloemfontein in the Free State. This Grade 12 team investigated ways to improve the efficiency of solar panels.

Eskom Development Foundation Acting CEO, Mologadi Motshele, congratulated the remarkable young scientists who have not only displayed exceptional talent but also a steadfast commitment to scientific inquiry and innovation.

“Your achievements are a testament to your hard work, dedication, and boundless curiosity. We are ecstatic to see a growing number of young women scientists emerging as true change agents in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Innovation (STEMI).

Your accomplishments serve as an inspiration to countless others, demonstrating that gender should never be a barrier to pursuing one’s passion and making a significant impact on society at large. As you bask in the glow of your well-deserved awards, know that you are shaping the future of STEMI and contributing to a more inclusive and diverse scientific community. This is just the beginning. The journey ahead is bound to be filled with even greater discoveries, and we eagerly anticipate the remarkable contributions you will continue to make,” said Motshele.

Eskom Expo Executive Director, Parthy Chetty said: “I wish to thank the many partners and sponsors who share our vision of promoting STEMI education by rewarding deserving young scientists for their hard work and dedication. Whilst all finalists are already winners by making it to ISF, and some will walk away with fantastic rewards, all will leave this event more enriched with new experiences during the week, new friends from across the world and will now be Expo ambassadors back home.”

Through their generous sponsorships, Siemens Pty Ltd, Innomotics and Siemens Energy supported previously disadvantaged schools at the ISF with their prizes; while FFS, Babcock International, Ekurhuleni Drums, Trisim Logistics, Berea Plumbers and the National Institute for Theoretical and Computational Sciences (NIThECS) supported learners with laptop computer sponsorships. Universities like the University of Witwatersrand, the University of Pretoria and the Durban University of Technology provided academic support in the form of bursaries and mentorships.

 Siemens Energy awarded two full bursaries worth close to R1 million (which includes tuition fees, textbooks, accommodation, meal allowances and a laptop) for winners to study towards a Bachelor of Science in Engineering at any South African university of their choice. The winners were: Kabelo Sekoere and Simthembile Hlehliso from Senakangwedi Secondary School, who represented the Bloemfontein region.

Lethabo Molobi from Zinniaville Secondary School, who represented the Bojanala region, was awarded the prestigious University of Pretoria/Dr Derek Gray Memorial Award for the research project entitled: “Can humans recognise text produced by AI chatbots?”. The award consists of the Derek Gray Gold Medal, attendance at the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar during Nobel Week, and a three-year study bursary in the sciences or engineering at the University of Pretoria, provided she meets the required criteria.

For the complete list of 2023 Eskom Expo ISF winners, visit www.exposcience.co.za

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