Two South African young scientists have captivated judges with their research at the 2022 Global Youth Science and Technology Bowl (GYSTB) Science Fair held in Hong Kong, each bagging awards in their respective categories.

The GYSTB is an online international student science project competition in biology, chemistry, physics and engineering in Hong Kong. The competition ran from 10 to 12 June 2022, showcasing global youth scientific achievement and innovation, which aims to promote science and technology.

Jaco Jacobs, a 17-year-old Grade 12 learner at Outeniqua Hoërskool in the Western Cape’s Eden Karoo region, received a gold award in the physics and engineering category. Jacobs investigated automated inflation and pressure regulation for recreational and professional cyclists.

“I feel very excited to have won the award. It has been a long journey, and I am very happy that I have made it this far,” says Jacobs. “It was very interesting and challenging to participate in the GYSTB, especially as it is a global event. I enjoyed the process of getting ready for expo, as well as all the challenges on the way. I definitely enjoyed meeting and seeing people from around the world, and learning from them, as well as to hear about their projects and ideas.”

Nicolaas Moolman, an 18-year-old Grade 12 learner at Hoërskool Volksrust in Mpumalanga’s Gert Sibande region, was awarded the second prize in the biochemistry and chemistry category. Moolman’s research addressed both food shortages and the control of alien plants. He investigated whether invasive plants could be used to prevent microbial spoilage of fresh food products.

“I am grateful to have been awarded the second prize in my category. I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate and be rewarded for all the hard work,” says Moolman. “The GYSTB was a fantastic science fair. I enjoyed every bit of it. The fair was very well organised and definitely an event that I will remember. What I enjoyed most about the GYSTB was the project exchange, during which we had time to meet other participants and talk about our projects on the Gather platform. I enjoyed looking at what other participants did in their projects, and learnt some new concepts and approaches to solve new problems.”

Eskom Development Foundation CEO Cecil Ramonotsi comments: “We remain committed to investing in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation (STEMI), particularly for the young people of South Arica. The Eskom Expo for Young Scientists is one of the many vehicles under the Eskom Development Foundation that enables us to do this, and we are proud to have made a meaningful contribution to this programme.”

Meanwhile, young South African scientists will be competing at the International Festival of Engineering Science and Technology in Tunisia with their research which revolutionises pneumonia and skin cancer diagnosis, along with in-depth research on the physics of sound.

The festival will be held in Monastir, Tunisia from 24 to 30 June 2022 and is organised by the Tunisian Association for the future of Science and Technology. The extended nine-day programme aims to be unique, educational and fun, and will include various trips and excursions to discover the rich Tunisian culture.

The Eskom Expo for Young Scientists selected Kutlwano Tshatiwa, a 17-year-old Matric learner at Gabonewe High School in the North West province’s Bojanala region and Ethan de Wet, an 18-year-old Matric learner at Curro Durbanville in the Western Cape’s Stellenbosch region, to represent South Africa.

Tshatiwa was selected to participate in the festival because of his vast knowledge and experience in machine learning. He is a resourceful, quick learner and is mostly self-taught, making him a suitable participant for this science fair because of the fast pace and high standards. The young scientist used millions of images to test two methods of model training: a custom model and a knowledge distillation model. He found that knowledge distillation techniques outperformed the custom model in terms of accuracy.

De Wet’s project was selected for international participation because the innovation is an example of how an industry dependent on natural resources can become eco-friendly. Using 3D printing technology with biodegradable Polylactic acid (PLA), he designed and constructed speaker enclosures that could replace standard wooden ones. De Wet conducted in-depth research on the physics of sound such as sound pressure level, distortion, and the audio spectrum. This, together with his knowledge of sound engineering, helped him design and 3D print an affordable and efficient speaker enclosure. The significance of his study is that the speaker enclosure is eco-friendly, cost effective, and gives the consumers greater flexibility to 3D print such enclosures themselves, using his designs.

Ramonotsi says: “Eskom is proud to be the funder of the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, a platform which continues to enable learners not only to develop themselves but to also make a positive contribution to the country through scientific knowledge.”

Registration to take part in the 2022 Eskom Expo is open. Learners in grades 4 to 12, along with learners from Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges that are in NC2 to NC4, can register and upload their own research projects by clicking the link: http://bit.ly/3dVnTGH. To access resources and easy-to-use templates, click here: https://bit.ly/3ctUuik.

Editor@tech-talk.co.za