The South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) aims to advance public awareness, appreciation and engagement of science, engineering and technology in South Africa. SAASTA is business Unit of the National Research Foundation.
By taking overall ownership of science advancement initiatives within the NRF and on a countrywide scale, SAASTA is responding to an organisational as well as national imperative.
SAASTA’s Business Units
The aim of SAASTA’s Education Unit is to build the supply of tomorrow’s scientists and innovators. South Africa is rapidly reaching the forefront of science and technology advancement in Africa and internationally, and has the potential to become a rich source of up-coming scientists, engineers and innovators.
Considering that South Africa was ranked very low in the 1993 and 1998/9 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the work done by SAASTA’s Education Unit will be pivotal in preparing today’s youth to become tomorrow’s scientists and engineers. This work can be divided into the following three broad areas:
School science support, which includes educator and learner programmes; science enrichment projects; and competitions.
The essence of good science communication lies in providing credible and accurate information that is accessible to to all South African communities.
The unit has the following focus areas:
Three DST-funded programmes are managed by this unit:
Science Communication strategically develops and implements new science communication initiatives in response to national challenges and needs and in line with international trends in the field of science communication. This Unit sustains and renews a portfolio of existing science communication initiatives.
Science Awareness Platform
Science is often thought of as something that is abstract and generally out of reach for the average South African. The main aim of SAASTA’s Science Awareness Platform is to literally put the world of science in society’s hands through exhibitions and through hands-on experience of science. It provides science that the public can see, touch, feel and experience. In this way, science is demystified, is less foreign, becomes tangible and practical and, most of all, becomes fun.
The Science Awareness Platform achieves this through the following focus areas:
SAASTA occupies two sites, namely the Didacta Building in Pretoria that serves as its headquarters and the Observatory in Johannesburg. The Johannesburg Observatory can host exhibitions on engineering, optics, astronomy, astrophysics and space science. Learning facilities include the infinity room, telescopes and the TRAC laboratory. The Johannesburg Observatory also has the following resources available or learners, educators and the public: forensic science laboratories; a computer laboratory; a library; several telescopes; 19 exhibits in the form of interactive hands-on models; and travelling exhibits such as SciQuest and StarLab.