There’s a common saying among African leaders that goes “The solution to Africa’s problems lie in the hands of Africans”. Judging by the hundreds of science, technology, engineering, maths and agricultural projects by 822 learners that were displayed in a hall at the Birchwood Hotel and Conference, there can never be a truer saying.

Projects ranged from experiments and research to projects that offered solutions to common problems such as lack of electricity, shack fires, poorly constructed RDP houses and more. We got to grab a quick chat with the young creators of four such projects to get an idea of what we may see emerging in the near future.

Lodewyk Fourie

Grade eight learner at St Andrew’s, Free State

Project: Durable and cheaper RDP houses

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Many RDP houses around the country have had to be rebuilt from scratch due to shoddy building and poor materials used to build them. This costs a lot of money to do and leaves families in danger of being hurt by collapsing walls and being left homeless.

Lodewyk Fourie thinks his project may be the solution to this problem.

“I was able to do a survey on how residents in RDP houses live and the quality of the housing through a friend of mine who lives in a township near my city,” Fourie says.

Fourie tested out the use of bricks, sand-filled cold drink cans, sand-filled beer bottles and sand-filled bags as alternative wall material respectively and tested each one out measuring their strength, resistance to water, sound and damage by a hammer. In his conclusion, sand bags performed the best in the tests as they were water and sound proof and were the strongest.

Sanele Mngomezulu and Siphosakhe Mthembu

Grade 12 learners at Mshudu High School, KwaZulu-Natal

Project: Preventing copper cable and electrical energy theft

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Copper cable and electricity theft is a problem that costs the South African economy R5 billion a year.

Mthembu and Mngomezulu’s project is a device that hopes to prevent thieves from stealing cables placed near power stations, cable poles and homes. Electric wires are placed four metres above the ground and the device is then connected to the wires and a metre box.

The device will then send an alert to Eskom should any suspicious activity happening around it be detected.

“We got the idea for the project from the problems we face in our own community. People steal cables because Eskom stopped providing electricity to our community in 2007”, Mngomezulu says.

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Lenè van Deventer and Lize du Toit

Grade 8 learners at Leeuwenhof Academy, Germiston.

Project: Waste heat to electricity (Sterling Waste Heat Recovery unit)

SONY DSCVan Deventer and du Toit’s project is a cost-effective, robust and simple Sterling engine that can be used to recover some of the heat energy from emitted coal and wood stoves that is lost to the atmosphere and improve energy efficiency and fossil fuel utilisation.

According to these young ladies, households using coal as a primary source of energy can substitute it for their Sterling Waste Heat Recovery unit for low energy lighting, powering electronic equipment and charging mobiles.

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Loyola Nonyane and Bongiwe Nkosi

Grade 11 learners at Sitintile Secondary School, Mpumalanga

Project: Who needs soil? ILEOPEA Watering System

SONY DSCWant to start a vegetable, fruit or plant garden? Well, you apparently won’t need soil, according to Nonyane and Nkosi.

Their project is a garden watering system that aims to address problems of water scarcity and food security in South Africa. With the system, you can plant seeds on the tiers, water them through a pipe system that trickles down to the lower tiers thereby saving water. They used the hydroponics planting method, which uses mineral nutrient solutions in water, to replace the need to used soil to plant products.

“I want to do a course in water surveying after matric,” Nkosi explains, while Nonyane says she is looking at agricultural science engineering.

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