At a glance – Achievements during 2014/15
SAASTA helps to build the supply of tomorrow’s scientists and innovators through a variety of activities including science Olympiads and festivals. In 2014 the organisation celebrated 50 years of the National Science Olympiad.
Southern Africa’s top young science performers in 2014 were honoured at an award ceremony in Gauteng on 10 July, where they were inspired by some of the past winners to excel in their chosen professions one day.
Three learners who perform exceptionally well in SAASTA’s National Science Olympiad are selected each year to attend the Australian National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) with assistance provided by SAASTA. In 2014, Luthundo Mdadane, Thomas Orton and Keitumetse Mokoena were chosen to attend this prestigious event, and in 2015 Hamandishe Mathivha and Danielle Vellema enjoyed that honour.
The year 2014 marked the fourth annual Natural Science Olympiad, which encourages learners from Grade 4 to 9 in all provinces to gain an understanding of how the world and universe work by covering five major fields of study: Chemistry, Astronomy, Earth Science, Physics and Biology. The annual written examination comprised questions set by field experts in Natural Sciences.
The Olympiad aims to increase the number of learners who opt for Physical Science, Life Science, Accounting and Mathematics at high schools; and to act as a feeder for SAASTA’s National Science Olympiad for grades 10 to 12. The provincial finals for the 2014 SAASTA National Schools Debates competition were held on 4 December at the 3M Innovation Centre in Woodmead, Johannesburg.
The following schools represented their provinces at the finals: Queen’s College Boys’ High, Eastern Cape; St Michael’s School for Girls, Free State; Crawford College Pretoria, Gauteng; Durban Girls’ High, KwaZulu-Natal; Thengwe High School, Limpopo; Suikerland Secondary School, Mpumalanga; Kimberley Boys’ High School, Northern Cape; and Settlers High School in the Western Cape.
Queen’s College Boys’ High (Eastern Cape) came out tops as the 2014 winners and was awarded the ultimate prize of a trip to New York, which includes an exciting programme of scientific exploration. The first runner up was St Michael’s School for Girls (Free State) and the second runner up was Crawford College Pretoria (Gauteng), who all received prizes of Apple iPods.
SAASTA has always considered the media to be a very valuable partner in enabling people and science engagement. A drive was initiated to reach out to the heart of rural communities with the message that there is a better future for all South Africans through science education, communication and awareness, in the home languages of these communities.
A pilot project was launched with three community radio stations and three community papers in Limpopo to disseminate information to the public on new technologies such as biotechnology and nanotechnology. On 1 December 2014, SAASTA signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Giyani Community Radio, Phalaborwa FM, Nthavela News, Seipone News and Ngoho News in Polokwane to formalise the relationship. Further, A weekly radio show devoted to improving the public understanding of science has been launched by the Wits Radio Academy and Voice of Wits 90.5.
SAASTA also promotes science awareness through national events such as the National Science Week (NSW), which it manages on behalf of the Department of Science and Technology. The NSW is an annual week-long event aimed at celebrating the role that science, mathematics, engineering and technology play in everyday life and encouraging more young people to follow careers in these fields.
It attracts thousands of members of the public, learners and educators to workshops, science shows and exhibitions at universities, schools and science centres countrywide. Altogether 76 organisations, including science centres, schools, science councils, higher education institutions and museums participated in NSW 2014, bringing the world of science to the public of South Africa.