South African young scientists shine at international science fairs

Source: 4/2/2024, Location: Africa

Six South African young scientists who presented their innovative research projects at international science fairs in Tunisia and Beijing have returned home triumphant, each securing medals in their respective categories.

Keerthana Kishor Nair (Grade 12 learner at Bryanston High School) and Alexia Hilton Smedmor (Grade 10 learner at Parktown High School for Girls), competed at the International Festival of Engineering, Science and Technology in Tunisia (I-FEST2) from 22 to 28 March 2024, following their award-winning performance at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists International Science Fair (ISF) in 2023. Nair placed in the top 10 of the best performers, achieving a Gold medal, while Smedmor achieved a Silver medal.

Nair said, “I did not expect it at all. This was an experience unlike any other. I met so many new people from across the globe and learned so much more about their culture and lifestyle. This is knowledge and a feeling I would have never gotten anywhere else. My highlight in Tunisia was definitely the Colosseum – Amphitheater of El Jem. To be in the presence of so much history, authenticity, and something so massive – it really showed me the beauty of travel and nature. I was humbled in the moment with the breath-taking masterpiece of this ancient architecture. Truly ineffable.”

Further east, Nyakallo Nonjabulo Mbongo (Grade 11 learner at Welkom-Gimnasium); Kiyara Tami Swartbooi (Grade 12 learner at Port Rex Technical High School in East London); along with Steffan Thielen and Rohan van Loggerenberg (Grade 12 learner from Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch) competed at the Beijing Youth Science Creation Competition (BYSCC) in China from 28 March to 1 April. Thielen and Van Loggerenberg were awarded Gold medals, while Mbongo and Swartbooi were awarded Silver medals. Mbongo was also awarded the second prize for the Yanqi Innovation Competition, and received a cash prize of RMB2,000 (approximately R5,200 at the time).

Mbongo said, “I am deeply honoured and grateful for the awards I have received. Simply being chosen by Eskom Expo to represent my country was a significant achievement for me, but to receive an award further added to my joy. Witnessing the scale and competitiveness of the BYSCC was truly eye-opening, especially seeing the remarkable projects presented by other participants. This experience reinforced the belief that hard work indeed yields results, and emphasised the importance of pursuing our passions wholeheartedly.”

The Chief Executive Officer of the Eskom Development Foundation (Acting), Ms Mologadi Motshele, said: “Congratulations to all the young scientists who showcased their exceptional talents and innovative projects at the recent international science fairs. Your dedication, hard work, and ingenuity have not only earned you recognition, but also inspired countless others. Your achievements highlight the immense potential that young minds hold in shaping the future of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and innovation (STEMI). It’s crucial to continue nurturing young scientists from a tender age, providing them with the support, resources, and encouragement they need to explore their interests and pursue their passions in STEMI fields.”

Upcoming international tours include: Indonesia International Science, Technology and Engineering Competition (ISTEC) in Bali; the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in the USA; and the Buca International Music, Science, Engineering Energy Fair (IMSEF) in Türkiye. Announcements regarding participants will be made in due course.

Registration to take part in 2024 Eskom Expo is open. Learners in grades 4 to 12, along with TVET college learners (NC2 to NC4) can register their research projects by visiting

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