Learners participating in National Science Week alongside Dr Tanja Reinhardt.

National Science Week Inspires Learners

The Science and Technology Education Centre (STEC@UKZN) on UKZN’s Westville campus hosted the annual three-day National Science Week (NSW).

The week, aimed at raising awareness about the importance of Science and careers in the discipline, celebrates Science, Engineering and Technology; attracting thousands of learners and members of the public to the science shows and lectures held at universities, science centres and schools country wide.

‘Each year a different theme is chosen and activities are offered around the theme to the target audiences. The theme for 2018 was Deepening our Democracy through Science,’ said Dr Tanja Reinhardt, the STEC Co-ordinator.

Pupils from schools around Durban took part in the scientific activities. Accommodating more than 50 learners a day, the programme offered interesting and fun presentations as well as tours around UKZN’s high-tech laboratory facilities.

‘Students were shown the laboratory facilities at the Chemistry, Microscopy and Microanalysis Unit (MMU) as well as the Geology labs,’ said Reinhardt.

Statistics postgraduate student, Ms Nombuso Zondo and Mathematics lecturer Ms Kenda Knowles gave an informative presentation on Statistics, Astronomy and Mathematics.

Cellular Biology lecturer, Dr Dalene Vosloo and Microbiology lecturer, Dr Hafizah Chenia, gave interactive presentations on Biology and Microbiology while the MMU team gave the students a tour of the high-tech scanning electron and transmitting electron microscopes.

Physics lecturer, Professor Thomas Konrad gave an educational and interesting presentation on Physics, while Chemistry lecturer Dr Roshila Moodley and her team provide hands on activities in the Chemistry lab.

The learners were given a tour to the Geology labs by Geology lecturer, Dr Egerton Hingston and lab technician, Mr Mukesh Seyambu, while Electrical Engineering lecturer, Dr Leigh Jarvis gave learners a presentation on Electrical Engineering.

‘Each day, a Science quiz tested the knowledge of the learners and a Science show rounded off the programme,’ said Reinhardt.

Amber Simons, a Grade 10 learner from Grosvenor Girls’ High School, expressed that she had fun being exposed to all the scientific careers available.

‘The event was a great eye-opening learning opportunity for me, especially because I am very interested in science. It helped me understand the many opportunities and fields that science provides. The science shows were awesome!’ says Simons.

Two Big Science Show Off evenings concluded the event; one held on the UKZN Westville campus and the other on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

The Big Science Show Off was open to the public. The event had an excellent turn out, which included parents and their children, who were treated on the Westville campus to “Dr T’s” (Reinhardt’s) amazing scientific demonstrations. On the Pietermaritzburg campus “Dr T” was joined by Professor Vincent Couling, Physics Senior Lecturer and Academic Leader at PMB campus. The scientific displays wowed both the kids and the parents and ranged from wheels rolling up a hill, a Couling special “bed of nails” sandwich, to exploding hydrogen balloons.

One of the attendees of the Big Science Show Off, Siphamandla Nkosi, brought along his children to see the fun scientific shows.

‘The event was well co-ordinated and very interactive. I brought my kids along as this would be a good opportunity for them to see that science can be fun and interesting. Needless to say, my children really enjoyed themselves,’ said Nkosi.

A special thank you goes out to the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and NRF SAASTA for their assistance in co-ordinating the event and providing financial support.

Words: Zolile Duma

Photograph: Bheki Mthembu