“DEVELOPING the country’s pipeline of young researchers, scientists and engineers are fundamental to survival in a competitive and constantly evolving global village,” says Krishnie Naidoo, central regional co-ordinator for the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists 2016, who also believes professionals in these fields are critical to the nation’s economic well-being. The expo is a national science fair endorsed by the Departments of Basic Education, Science & Technology and Public Enterprises and is funded by Eskom. The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Information Technology Report 2016 ranked South Africa last in mathematics and science education quality. SA also finished close to last - 137 out of 139 countries - when looking at the overall quality of its education system. The report ranks SA’s mathematics and science education quality lower than that of Nigeria, Mozambique, and Malawi. This is the third year in a row that SA has finished last in the WEF’s mathematics and science education quality rankings. The expo is SA’s largest science fair for school students from Grades 5 to 12, offering them a golden opportunity to showcase their innovation and ingenuity through projects about their own scientific investigations. The aim is to stimulate youth interest and participation in fields related to Sciences, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Innovation (STEMI) through regional and national expositions which are hosted across 35 regions in all nine provinces. The central region expo in KwaZulu-Natal was presented in partnership with FFS Refiners, a key sponsor of the Durban event. “We are passionate about improving pupils performances in science, technology, engineering, maths and innovation (STEMI). We create platforms for learners to grow in their desired fields,” said Naidoo. “Participants in the expo are exposed to scientific investigative methods that are integrated in their project and this also equips them with problem solving skills. “Despite the expo being run by volunteers, there is 100 percent commitment to developing pupils and gearing them towards success. We are proud of our pupils’ achievements and we wish them well in the next stage, the national finals. Roughly 550 pupils from 35 regions will be selected to represent their provinces at the national competition to be held in Johannesburg at the Birchwood Conference Centre from 4 to 7 October 2016. Successful participants are awarded gold, silver and bronze medals as well as special awards and university bursaries in excess of R1.3 million. In addition, selected projects will qualify to participate at various International Science Fairs. The total number of pupils to represent KZN at the national expo is 96. Provincial representatives at the national competition will also have the opportunity to compete with young scientists from countries across Africa and all over the world as this event is also South Africa’s International Science Fair. Dani Jansen Van Rensburg, 14, who attends Hillcrest High School and a resident of the area said: “It is a privilege to be participating as a Grade 9 finalist at the national event, more so as a recipient of the KZN Young Achievers Award. “My submission was in the category ‘Earth Science, Housing and Settlement Studies’ with a project titled ‘Hyperboloid air well - optimising the harvesting of dew as an alternative source of water’. I designed, constructed and tested a unique, passive, radiative air-well using sustainable methods at a low cost without using non-renewable resources,” she said. “My career goal is to study microbiology or medicine. As an Expo finalist I believe future participants will be led to incredible opportunities and lifelong relationships with numerous students and professionals.” Another thrilled finalist, Mandisa Xaba, a grade nine pupil from Sakhelwe High School in Ezakheni said: “My submission was in the ‘energy efficiency and conservation’ category with a project titled Converting carbon emissions to energy which is about converting carbon emissions from automobiles into useful energy. “I gained significant exposure to practical tasks during the expo and my scientific knowledge continues to grow. My career aspiration is to become a physicist or a medical physicist. I encourage participation in the expo because it will open the doors of learning, thereby helping to find various ways to solve problems in South Africa and around the world.” Grade 9 Ladysmith High School student, Yashoda Naidoo said: “The Expo benefitted me immensely as I won gold at the regional competition in grade seven and silver at the national competition.“I secured gold at the regional event in grade eight and silver at the national event. I went on to participate at the regional expo this year and obtained a silver medal. “I am delighted to be participating as a finalist in the national competition. My project was in the ‘Innovation and Technology’ category titled ‘Sustainable anaerobic digestive device to heat water’. “The device is a bin in which you dispose waste. Bacterial decomposition takes place and within two weeks, 40 degrees of heat energy is produced. This heat energy directly heats water. The sustainable, convenient, and affordable device is designed for urban and rural use. “My goal is to pursue a career in medicine or the science field. By participating in the Expo, you will be exposed to opportunities to travel abroad and meet many professionals. The objective is to unite young minds and create unique ideas to find solutions to save the earth.”- Supplied.