October 2015
Contents / home
Global science engagement project
National Science Week activities
Science breaks barriers
Hydrogen fuel cell technology
Science that no classroom can teach
SAASTA empowers community
New CEO takes over reins at NRF
Hydrogen awareness website
Work shadowing at SAIAB
Field school for students
Meet Dr Zikhona Tetana
Improving technology education
Weather stations in schools
Street science
Space science appreciation
International Year of Light
Monitoring river health
Sasol Techno X prizes
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

National Science Week rolls out feast of activities

  National Science Week is celebrated in the Eastern Cape
  Exhibitions were held at shopping centres and malls to bring National Science Week to the people of South Africa
This year's National Science Week (NSW) activities were spread across the length and breadth of South Africa. Throngs of people including learners, educators and members of the public enjoyed the wide variety of science projects on offer.

The NSW programme, which ran from 1-8 August, focused on light and light-based technologies (or photonics) in keeping with the theme for 2015 proclaimed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Speaking at the launch of NSW at North-West University's Mafikeng Campus on August 1, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor described photonics as "an important science with varied useful applications". It was therefore appropriate that UNESCO had chosen to celebrate and raise awareness of its significant role, she said.

"Without a deep understanding of photonics there would be no lasers for recreation, eye operations, optical fibres, or cameras and displays in our cell phones," the Minister explained. "It's a science that has given birth to huge industries (such as) laser-based manufacturing, energy-efficient lighting, health care, and safety and security – (all of which were) strategically important for South Africa and Africa.

"Photonics is one of the key enabling technologies for our future prosperity," she stressed.

Reaching out to the community

The NSW is managed by SAASTA on behalf of the Department of Science and Technology. SAASTA rolled out the week's activities through grant holders appointed to conceptualise and host activities.

In addition to the exhibitions, quizzes, competitions and lectures on a variety of science topics at science centres and other designated venues across the country, community outreach programmes were conducted to reach greater numbers of people. To this end, exhibitions were held at shopping centres and malls to raise awareness about science among the general public.

Innovative science programmes

SAASTA Project Coordinator Erna Taljaard says this year's NSW was a huge success, with people from all walks of life participating. A key contributing factor was the innovative programmes developed by the grant holders, such as the "Build a Cardboard Chair" competition run by the Garden Route Botanical Garden Trust.

According to Dr Zilla North of Garden Route Botanical Garden Trust, the idea of the competition was born when the organising committee heard about a civil engineering competition where students had to construct a solid bridge from matchsticks. "Since the region has a rich history of forestry and furniture manufacture, the committee decided on a furniture themed competition.

"In addition, the committee was also looking for a project that would open doors to new careers in the Southern Cape and assist in job creation. Another requirement was that the project should meet SAASTA's STEMI project criteria.

"Judging criteria included strength, structural integrity, creativity and comfort. The committee then decided on a cardboard chair, which is a project of a manageable size to complete in a relatively short time. Cardboard is a biodegradable, recyclable material that allows for endless creative solutions in designing modern furniture."

The challenge was to build an easy chair from cardboard, using very basic tools, within a period of three hours.

"Cutting tools were supplied and mountains of cardboard were collected and made available at each of the five competition venues. Our local recycling company, Interwaste, contributed the bulk of the cardboard and collected all off-cuts and discarded materials for recycling purposes afterwards."

Five competition rounds took place every afternoon from 3 to 7 August at each of the five venues where NSW events were presented.

Staff Writer, SAASTA