Seventeen-year-old Nondumiso Mthembu made her home town of Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, proud when she outshone 821 other young scientists to walk away with the prize for the Best Overall Project at the 34th annual Eskom Expo for International Young Scientists.

The Eskom Expo showcases scientists in the making from over 31 regions and four countries and aims to encourage young people in Africa to participate in science, technology, engineering and maths activities in order to promote an interest in these subjects.

This year’s Eskom Expo was again hosted at the Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre in Boksburg. The event also raised the banner for female scientists high with 477 female participants, versus 345 male participants being present.

Mthembu’s project called “Ceater Stove”, is a unique built-in anthracite stove for use in poor communities adapted from the traditional coal stove and “imbawula”, a steel drum, with holes around the sides and coal or wood inside used to make a fire for warmth or cooking. Mthembu’s project also won her the award for Best Rural Development Project.

Other special awards given at the ceremony were:

  • Eskom Award for Best Energy Project: Dirty Energy by Jonathan Baker and Thomas Eichner, from St Stithians College
  • Eskom Award for Best Energy Efficiency Project: Passive Energy System by Lize Raubenheimer, from Wesvalia High School
  • Eskom Award for Best Female: Jana Lotz, from Bloemhof Girls High School
  • Eskom Award for Best Development High School: Sebalamakgolo High School, Mopani, Limpopo
  • Eskom Award for Best Development Primary School: Isiqophamithi Primary School, KwaZulu-Natal.

Every recipient of a special award received a laptop, while the two schools received a mobile science kit to upgrade their science facilities. In total, 253 bronze, 176 silver and 88 gold medals were awarded to learners at the ceremony.

Minister of the Department of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor was at the Eskom Expo to talk to some of the learners and view their projects before presiding over the prize giving ceremony.

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“Every time I come to the Eskom Expo my belief in South Africa is strengthened ten times over. At the Eskom Expo we want to begin the process of identifying talent. If we pique learner’s interest at a young age, it is possible to sustain it for many decades to come,” Pandor said during he speech at the prize giving ceremony.

“Don’t limit your ambitions. Dream as widely as you can. There are immense challenges that confront South Africa but you can be part of resolving those challenges,” she told the learners.

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As the winner of the Best Overall Project award, Mthembu will jet off to an international fair for young scientists in 2015, while a select group of Special Awards and gold medal winners will go through to interviews for spots on national teams that will represent South Africa at various international fairs.

Click on the gallery below to see more photos of the Eskom Expo:

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