Maboni Mmatli

For far too long when many of us hear about Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), we immediately shift it from ourselves and picture some old white man in a lab, with a beaker filled with chemicals. However, that has since changed. Young black learners in both primary and High school are bringing great STI to life and solving socio-economic problems that exist in their communities. Learners from Kgolodi High School – a rural school in Tipeng, Limpopo – won at the Eskom Young Scientist Expo after wowing the judges with their innovative ideas.

Marlien Mokgonyana, a grade 11 female learner, together with Frans Moemi who is in grade 10, said it was her first time entering and their innovation won bronze metal. Theirs was about a car that conducts land surveying as you drive. They had a small robotic car, strapped with a cellphone (acting as a camera) on top of the roof (for surveying). “This allows us to perform the surveying efficiently and effectively in a short period of time”. Their invention was made from old deserted material that was recycled from streets and rubbish bins. According to Marlien, the used an electric motor, screws, pegs, wires, etc. Marlien would like to study electrostatics and be involved in teams that bring forth big innovative ideas.

Adding to the list of winners was two 11th graders by the names Piet Seaneho and Thabo Molapo. Their invention was motivated by the lack of access to electricity due to high prices or no infrastructure, As a result, they came up with an idea of a solar-wind mind. Many of us know of the two as being separate units. However, they combined it into a single unit. “We took the model of the existing wind mill and modified it. We covered the steel of the frame that holds the mill upright with photovoltaic solar panels.

This allows the unit to harness electricity from two sources (wind and solar) and also gives us an advantage to have it operating in different seasons. When there is wind and no sun, it will give us energy. When the sun is there and no wind, it will still give us energy”, so said Thabo Molapo. Piet told us that they used recycled material in the form of wires, an electric motor and coated zinc metal. When asked what they would like to pursue after matric, Piet and Thabo say Agriculture and Electrical engineering respectively.

Another one of the young innovators is Khutso Masenya. He says he noticed that “gonorreah is a pressing issue in his community and that many people are losing their lives over it and are embarrassed to talk about it”. Having grandparents who are traditional healers aka Sangomas, he dedicates his life to merging western medicine with traditional healing practices (to get approval for his medications to be sold in established pharmacies) and education about the disease. He produced a healing concoction of brown berry bucks, Morula buck and “morotela tshotshi” (regional indigenous name). He gets his expertise and practices from her grandparents. The young Scientist wants to pursue dentistry after completing his matric.