South African school pupils win international science contest
18th June 2015

Pupils from St John’s College and Barnato Park High School in Johannesburg have teamed up to win the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) Beamline for Schools Competition 2015.

“Accelerating Africa”‚ the winning South African team‚ was a collaboration between boys in grade 11 from both schools.

Inspired by 2015 being named the International Year of Light by the United Nations‚ their project involves producing high-energy gamma rays using a crystalline undulator.

“This is an incredible achievement for South Africa‚ St John’s College‚ Barnato Park High School and the students involved‚” Colleen Henning‚ HOD Science at St John’s College‚ said in a statement.

“We are extremely grateful to CERN for this opportunity for ourselves and our country. We hope that winning this competition may inspire students all over South Africa to believe in themselves and become the next generation of scientists.”

CERN is best-known for its Large Hadron Collider (at 27km‚ the world’s largest particle accelerator) and finding the Higgs boson.

It runs the Beamline for Schools Competition‚ which makes a fully equipped beamline (a beam of accelerated particles along a specific path of an accelerator facility) available for high school students to conduct an experiment in the same way that researchers do at the Large Hadron Collider and other CERN facilities.

In proposals of fewer than 1000 words‚ teams had to explain why they wanted to visit CERN‚ what they hoped to take away from the experience and give initial thoughts on how they would use the particle beam for their experiment.

They also had to summarise their written proposal in a creative and entertaining video.

A total of 119 teams entered the competition‚ totalling 1050 high school pupils from around the world.

Teams of CERN scientists then evaluated proposals based on creativity‚ motivation‚ feasibility and scientific method. After two rounds of evaluation‚ 13 teams were highly commended and put forward for final selection by an official CERN committee that assigns beam time to experiments.

In Geneva earlier this month‚ CERN announced that two teams had been selected to travel to CERN in September to carry out their own experiments using a CERN accelerator beam.

South Africa’s Accelerating Africa team will be joined in Geneva by the Leo4G team from Liceo Scientifico Leonardo da Vinci School in Florence‚ Italy.

The costs of the 20 pupils (10 from South Africa and 10 from Italy) will be sponsored by the CERN.

“When I first heard the good news I was ecstatic‚ my hands where shaking and my heart was beating faster than usual. I could not believe that such an amazing opportunity has been blessed to me.”

“I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in Physics or Engineering and winning this amazing competition has brought me closer to my dreams. I’ve always wanted to travel abroad as I have never been overseas nor have I been in an airplane.”

“I’m truly thankful for this opportunity given to me and I know that I will take it with my two bare hands and not let go of it‚” said pupil Malaika Elliot Motsoai‚ from Barnato Park High School

“This opportunity that we have been presented with‚ will not only allow us to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience‚ but has also given us the chance to show the world and our fellow South African students that with hard work and determination almost anything is possible‚” added Fayadh Haffejee‚ from St John’s College.

The joint St John’s College and Barnato Park High School team is led by the St John’s College Head of Department‚ Science: Dr Colleen Henning. Prof Simon Connell of the University of Johannesburg has provided support in the proposal development and the student training.

The 13 teams that were given the status of highly commended are:

  • Accelerating Africa from South Africa
  • Atid from Israel
  • curioCERNty from the United States
  • Flash Team from Portugal
  • Leo4G from Italy
  • Muonsters from Spain
  • Photon Hunters from Spain
  • Prerna from the United States
  • R4CERN (R_ookies of R_ats R_ock the R_ays at CERN) from Germany
  • Salesianos-Úbeda from Spain
  • Team Nutella from Canada
  • Team Tachyon from Canada
  • The Princesses of Particles from Germany

The winning team members are: Quintus Kilbourn‚ Antonio Osato‚ Connor Mercer‚ Michael Copeland‚ Fayadh Haffejee‚ Brandon MacKenzie‚ Connor Williamson and Dutliff Boshoff from St John’s College. Malaika Motsoai and Professor Godlo from Barnato Park High School.

  • Dr C A Henning – HOD Science‚ St John’s College
  • Prof S H Connell – University of Johannesburg

Source: RDM News Wire

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