Every year the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists demonstrates the creativity and curiosity of grade 5 to 12 learners interested in science, technology, entrepreneurship, maths and innovation. This year the project entitled "Power Press: An investigation of piezoelectricity" by Schalk Marais of Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch was no exception.
"I decided to focus my project on piezoelectricity because the concept was so interesting," says Marais. "While researching a topic for the science expo I saw the name piezoelectricity for the first time, and was curious to know what it is. Piezoelectricity was discovered in the 1800s, and means electricity resulting from pressure."
Surfaces create electricity
The experiment, which took three months, is based on the premise of using surfaces to create electricity. For example, placing pressure pads and alligator clips underneath a schools passage way so that when pupils walk the piezoelectricity powers the lights for the passage. "It's similar to the dance machines at the games arcade, or the singing gift cards," beamed Schalk. "Pressure is applied to the surface and it either lights up or generates sound."
This year's Eskom Expo, which was recently held in Stellenbosch, had 21 gold, 43 silver and 54 bronze medal finalists. "Even though some of our gold finalists will be heading to the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists nationals in October, we are proud of all our learners who entered this year, and encourage them to enter again," said Erika Hoffman, Stellenbosch regional director.
One of the 229 projects from 33 schools on display was Kaila Fourie's of Bridge House College near Franschhoek who investigated using white coal as an alternative to black coal usage in the Western Cape. White coal is compressed wooden waste.
Fourie found her science project idea on a family holiday in India when she visited an Indian factory that manufactured and used white coal to operate. She was intrigued by the idea and this combined with her passion for saving the environment, made it the obvious choice for her project. Both the trip and idea paid off as Fourie won the Eskom Award for Best Energy project.
The Eskom Award for Best Development project went to Aletia Basson of Van Rhynsdorp High School for her study of human interaction with the environment by investigating the illegal sand mining at the Troe-troe River in the Western Cape. The Eskom Award for Best Female project went to Hoër Meisieskool Bloemhof learner, Eileen Theron for her health care and sports science project, while duo An-Louise Engelbrecht and Chrisri Dyason from Hoërskool Vrendendal were awarded the Eskom Award for Best Energy Efficiency for their project "Bottled Light".
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