The Department of Science and Technology hosted thousands of high school learners from around Rustenburg on Friday, 1 March, at a science, technology. engineering and mathematics (STEM) career expo.

 

The exhibition was held at the Ben Marais Hall and featured over 30 interactive exhibits highlighting various projects in the national system of innovation.  The learners had an opportunity to participate in science demonstrations and talk to researchers.

 

The DST regularly hosts such events to inform learners of the various STEM career paths available and to assist them in deciding what courses to take after school.

 

The venue teemed with curious learners, who engaged exhibitors about science fields such as radio astronomy, forensic science and tissue engineering.

 

Exhibitors from organisations such as the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory, the South African Weather Service, the SA Police Service, the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the Tshwane University of Technology's Centre for Tissue Engineering were kept on their toes as Grade 12 leaners bombarded them with queries.

 

The Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, encouraged to learners to engage exhibitors and to study subjects that they were passionate about.

 

The Minister quizzed learners about DST-funded projects in space science and radio astronomy. A handful of learners knew about the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) megascience project in the Northern Cape. The Minister and other senior officials were impressed by a young learner who explained the SKA project to the audience.

 

Meanwhile the Minister herself described what the Department was doing in the nanosatellite sphere.

 

"South Africa has a problem with fires, which destroy property, and nanosatellites such as ZACUBE provide early warnings of wildfires so that disaster management teams can respond before the fire causes too much damage," said the Minister.

 

The Minister also urged learners to read about the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR), which would be driven by the youth.  "South Africa needs critical skills in data science and machine learning, so that computer programmes and algorithms can be used to solve problems."

 

The Mayor of Rustenburg Local Municipality, Mpho Khunou, echoed the Minister's sentiments and advised young people to prepare for the FIR as South Africa needed young people to be at the forefront of the new digital age.

 

"The FIR represents entirely new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies," said the Mayor, going on to explain that South Africa needed scientists to thrive and respond to new ways of doing things.

 

Galaletsang Bantsijang of Sunrise View Secondary School said she felt privileged to have been part of the event and was looking forward to pursuing a medical engineering degree at the University of the Witwatersrand next year.

 

Another inspired learner, 18-year-old Seleke Gadihele from Boitekong Secondary School, planned to give back to her community by becoming a maths and life sciences teacher.  The energetic learner was excited to receive information about the Funza Lushaka bursary programme and hopeful that she would be able to study at the University of Pretoria.

 

The Funza Lushaka programme promotes teaching as a profession and enables eligible students to complete teaching qualifications in national priority subjects. After graduation, bursaries recipients are required to teach at a public school for the same number of years for which they received the bursary.