It is not every day that Grade 8 and 9 learners get the chance to build and launch their very own rockets but that is exactly what happened last week Thursday (7 October) at the Cape Academy of Maths, Science and Technology in Constantia.
As part of World Space Week, which was celebrated internationally from Monday 4 to Friday 10 October, hundreds of South African learners who participate in the I-Innovate programme implemented by the Sakhikamva Foundation engaged in a range of learning activities.
Highlights included linking learners to experiments aboard the International Space Station through the renowned ExoLab programme and a virtual talk and engagement with veteran NASA astronaut Gregory H Johnson. But for most of the learners who People’s Post spoke to on Thursday, the launch of the water rockets at the field located behind the academy was the pinnacle of World Space Week.
Pilot and founder of Sakhikamva Foundation, Fatima Jakoet, explained that the focus of this particular activity was to teach the learners to build the rockets and to give them the opportunity to propel their own water rockets, which travelled between 20 to 25 metres high. Jakoet said this was the first time in their Stream (Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) learning programme that learners actually launched rockets.
“It was a wonderful, hands-on way to both celebrate World Space Week and ignite a love of space and a curiosity about space travel,” she said.
Endinako Mdingi, a Grade 9 learner, said the experience definitely piqued her interest. “I didn’t even know water rockets existed. I didn’t know anything about astronomy and such, so everything that I learnt this week – like everything – was new to me. I didn’t have any interest in this stuff but I think now I might, actually.”
Mdingi, who commutes from her home in Mandalay to the academy daily, adds that she always thought of becoming a doctor. Now, however, she feels this could also be for her.
“This week was very fun. Like for once I didn’t regret having to wake up at 05:30 every morning to come to school,” she says.
Zoë Abrahams, who is in Grade 8, also found the rocket launch inspiring.
“I loved it because we worked as a team. We used each others’ ideas and we all helped to have an awesome outcome.”
For her, the week’s activities also confirmed that which seems impossible is possible if you put in enough hard work and you are determined – even becoming an astronaut. She feels this is not a message that she and her fellow learners hear enough.
“I tell myself every day, you can do it, you are worthy,” Zoë says.
Rohan Jhilmeet’s favourite activity was the miniature straw rockets which the learners built earlier that day.
“You had to blow into them with a straw and then they just went whoosh. It was a nice challenge.”
The Grade 9 learner said he would like to become a metaphonics engineer.
“So you never know, maybe I will get into something that has to do with space in some sort of project I will do one day. I always find this kind of thing very interesting. You get a lot of exposure that you wouldn’t have had before, learning about different kind of pathways that you can take,” said Rohan.
For Jesse Bull, a Grade 9 learner, the activity which stood out the most was the design project which the learners did in groups on Wednesday 9 October.
“We had to design a satellite and then write a mission statement. Our group got terrain mapping, so we had to build a satellite to map the terrain of Mars.”
She added what she liked most about it was the group interaction aspect of it.
“We were a bigger group and I am sort of new at the school so I haven’t really gotten to know many kids. This was a chance to also learn the names of the other learners,” says Jesse.
Tata Consulting Services (TCS) sponsored activities for the space week.
Nikhil Dabhole, Human Resources at TCS South Africa, said they lent their support to this project because of the wonderful opportunity it held for learners to explore science, technology and space.
“Exciting space-related activities engage learners in Stream learning, igniting their interest as they see the real-world value of science, mathematics and technology. It’s the opportunity for young people across the range of South African communities to become inspired when it comes to the subjects that are driving transformations in our world,” said Dabhole.