Teenager has stars in his eyes

Thabo Maliea with the apparatus that earned him an award at the 2021 Taiwan International Science Fair (TISF). Photo: Supplied
Thabo Maliea with the apparatus that earned him an award at the 2021 Taiwan International Science Fair (TISF). Photo: Supplied

A rising teenage scientist from Botshabelo is getting closer to realising his dream of being an astrophysicist.

Thabo Maliea (18), a former learner of the Setjhaba Se Maketse Combined School in Botshabelo, has received a scholarship to study Astrophysics at the University of the Witwaters­rand (Wits) and is on the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) waiting list.

Maliea received this scholar­ship after winning one of the prestigious awards at the 2021 Taiwan International Science Fair (TISF), in which he participated virtually from 1 to 5 February.

He achieved third place in the Astrophysics category.

Maliea was selected for this international competition following his performance in the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists held in December last year.

He showcased through his home-made observational apparatus a simple and efficient way to explore while practicing Astronomy.

The device was voted as one of the top four projects at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists 2020 and he was acknowledged with the award for the best development project.

Maliea captivated the expo judges with his “ingenuity, depth of knowledge and mastery of inquiry methodology” displayed in his scien­tific research project Sunprints in the Sky.

The project investigates the track that the sun follows in comparison with three specific stars over a period of five months, using the home-made observational apparatus instead of expensive equipment.

In addition to the scholarship earned through his accomplishment in the TISF, Maliea received the award for third place in the Astrophysics category, winning R1 055,35 in cash, a medal and a certificate.

The scholarship has come in handy to realise a childhood dream.

“I have mixed emotions about winning an award, to be honest,” said Maliea.

“I have always wanted to do an astronomy project. So, then I decided to use a home-made apparatus, because it is more affordable, and it was my best alternative.”

Andrew Etzinger, general manager of risk and sustainability at Eskom, has lauded Maliea.

“Eskom is extremely proud of our learners for their fantastic achievements, especially Thabo, whose fascination with the sun has gained him global recognition.”

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