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NC pupil to showcase research

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“Fighting crime with malaria-fighting drug”

A PUPIL from Douglas High School in the Northern Cape is one of two young scientists who have been selected to be showcased at the 2020 Taiwan International Science Fair, after impressing judges at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists International Science Fair (ISF).

Miné Steenkamp, 16, from Douglas High School was, together with Farida Cajee, 18, from Schweizer-Reneke High School in the North West, selected by a panel of academics and professionals following the ISF, which was held in Gauteng in September 2019.

The teens captivated judges with their ingenuity, depth of knowledge and mastery of inquiry methodology.

Steenkamp, who won Eskom’s best innovative project award at ISF, will showcase her project: “Fighting crime with malaria-fighting drug”.

Inspired by a murder in her family, Steenkamp aimed to investigate the use of artemisinin combined with luminol to retrieve evidence more efficiently from crime scenes, using a smartphone as the detector, which could provide highly accurate on-scene analyses.

Cajee meanwhile set out to find a way to help amputees save hundreds of thousands of rand on prosthetics. She designed a “mind-controlled 3D-printed prosthetic hand” that aims to be a more affordable prosthetic alternative.

The project entails an electroencephalograph (EEG) headset that measures brainwaves paired with a prosthetic hand from recycled material which is able to move based on thoughts.

Eskom Expo executive director Parthy Chetty said in a statement yesterday that it was very admirable that there were two female pupils representing South Africa.

“They can also encourage more girls to take up science-related studies and careers. We wish them well in their upcoming challenge and have faith that they will represent South Africa to the best of their ability.”

The Taiwan fair takes place from February 3 to 7, 2020 at the National Taiwan Science Education Center in Taipei.

South Africa participates in this fair as it offers pupils an opportunity to present their research to their peers from other countries, while promoting cross-cultural communication and educational exchange.

Eskom general manager for risk and sustainability, Andrew Etzinger said: “Eskom Expo has for the past 40 years sought to nurture an interest in the sciences, and through strategic support from Eskom enable promising young scientists, like the two selected, to represent our country in Taiwan, to receive even greater exposure to science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation (STEMI) activities. Both girls have in-depth knowledge of their respective fields and would benefit from interactions with their peers at this competitive science fair.”

This year will see several pupils taking part in international science fairs, including tours to the Kenya Science and Engineering Fair; Hong Kong International Science Fair; The International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Anaheim, California; and the China Adolescents Science and Technology Innovation Contest (CASTIC) in China.

International science fairs are excellent opportunities for young South African scientists to grow intellectually and socially. These international fairs go beyond their school, regional and national science fair by opening new possibilities and shrinking the global village, which enables the sharing of knowledge and cross-pollination of ideas.