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Nine outstanding young South African scientists were selected to travel to Pittsburgh, USA to represent South Africa and their projects at the INTEL International Science Fair this year.

This year three learners won prizes at the world’s largest and most prestigious science fair, including one special award and two category awards.

“If you consider that 1,792 learners from 81 countries competed, our local girls did truly amazing work,” Eskom said in a statement.

Thava Govender, Eskom Group Executive: Transmission and Acting Group Executive Sustainability & Risk, explained: “At Eskom we have a huge need for talented scientists and engineers and by supporting the Eskom Expo we are able to invest in developing a pipeline of talented technical specialists. The Eskom Expo isn’t just about cultivating an interest in the sciences but through strategic support we encourage young scientists to pursue their interest at a tertiary level.

“This long-term vision means that in a few years’ time these scientists will begin to serve South Africa in areas beset by a scarcity of skills.” Read more: Eskom Contractor Academy helps upskill Cape Town entrepreneur

Award winners

Alecia Brits, a grade 12 learner at Diamantveld High School in Kimberley won a special award from the USAID Mother and Child Programme and $500 in prize money. Her project, “Biochemical frontline infection detection” aimed to identify and determine the susceptibility of micro-organisms that cause skin infections without the need for laboratory infrastructure or equipment.

Gabriele Gess, a grade 12 learner from St Cyprian’s School in Cape Town took home fourth prize in the Animal Sciences category and $500 in prize money. Her project investigated the availability and sources of pollen collected by honey bees on a fruit farm in the Piket Bo-berg area in the Western Cape Province during the summer months (December to March) when there is little or no rainfall.

The third prize was won by Martha Djan, a grade 12 learner from Potchefstroom High School for Girls in the North West. She too took home fourth place prize and $500 in prize money for her project that looked at how to extract metals from mine dumps using plants.

Parthy Chetty, executive director of the Eskom Expo said: “Just being chosen to attend INTEL ISEF is a huge honour. To attend an international fair of this nature is an incredible learning experience. The exposure these young scientists get is priceless and the opportunity to engage with other young scientists and leaders in their fields spurs many on pursue careers in the sciences. To add a haul of prizes to the experience is just the cherry on the top!”

“The competition at INTEL ISEF is stiff but these learners truly are the cream of the crop. They are doing exciting, innovative work trying to solve some of South Africa’s most serious challenges using very innovative approaches. We are delighted that these learners have had this opportunity to gain this kind of exposure and we are very proud that they represented South Africa so well on the international stage,” says Pieter Pretorius, chairman of the Board of Directors, Eskom Expo for Young Scientists.

Chetty added: “Every year we are impressed by the ingenuity shown by the participants at Eskom Expo. Their commitment to finding innovative solutions to society’s most pressing problems such as sustainability is admirable. Eskom Expo recognises and rewards their contribution to the global knowledge base.”