Grahamstown's young scientists dominate at Eskom Expo national finals
Six of the Grahamstown region’s brightest young scientists walked off with top honours at the 2015 Eskom Expo for Young Scientists International Science Fair held in Johannesburg last week.
Beaming all the way home was Grade 11 Victoria Girls’ High School learner, Lauren James, who was awarded a gold medal; judged Overall Category Winner: Plant Sciences; awarded first year bursaries to the University of Pretoria and the University of Stellenbosch; and was selected as a finalist to represent South Africa at an international science fair in 2015/2016.
James’ project investigated whether Eucalyptus trees are allelopathic, or in layman’s terms, whether Eucalyptus trees produce a biochemical that may influence the growth, survival and reproduction of other plants. Eucalyptus trees are often used as wind breaks by farmers in South Africa, but James’ research shows that these trees affect seed germination and crop growth, and therefore crop yield. This has implications for food security around the world.
Judges at the national finals would be forgiven for thinking they were seeing double, as James’ twin sister, Jacqui, also impressed at the competition. Jacqui was awarded a gold medal, a first year bursary to the University of Pretoria and the Microscopy Society of South Africa Award for her project which investigated the effect of drought and flood conditions on plants.
Victoria Girls’ High School continued to dominate the stage, with Grade 11 learner, Danielle Walker, also being awarded a gold medal and being selected as a finalist to represent South Africa at an international science fair, and the project of her classmate, Lelethu Rayi, being highly recommended by judges.
Not to be outdone was Grade 9 DSG, Grahamstown learner, Julia Kirkpatrick, who was awarded a silver medal, and Grade 9 Kwakomani Comprehensive School, Queenstown learner, Nkumbuzo Dlanga who investigated whether boiling tobacco could reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes.
The Eskom Expo for Young Scientists is South Africa’s national science fair that affords learners the opportunity to enter a project to exhibit their own scientific investigation. The project aims to inspire and develop young scientists who are able to identify a problem, analyse information, find solutions and communicate findings effectively.
Participants from the Grahamstown region were first required to enter a project into the Rhodes University Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, one of 32 regional finals, held in August this year, where their projects were selected for entry into the national finals.
Scifest Africa and Grahamstown Regional Science Fair Director, Anja Fourie, said that while the Grahamstown delegation was one of the smallest at the national final, it was certainly one of the most impressive. “We are exceptionally proud of Danielle, Jacqui and Lauren, all of whom entered the Expo, learned from the experience, and challenged themselves to enter again and improve and excel every year. This was the secret to their success, and we hope they will be an inspiration to others in the Fort Beaufort, Grahamstown and Queenstown educational districts to not only enter the competition, but to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”
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