16 August 2023 | Story Angela Stott | Photo Supplied
Participants of the UFS Creative Clubs Programme
23 grade 10 participants in the UFS Creative Clubs Programme proudly pose with their awards.

All 23 grade 10 learners taking part in the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Creative Clubs Programme were awarded medals at the Bloemfontein regional Eskom Expo for Young Scientists (EYS) competition from 3 to 5 August 2023.

The learners, who attend Bloemfontein township schools, had been working on their projects for over a year as part of the Creative Clubs Programme, which is run by the UFS Faculty of Education. Guided by veteran Expo facilitators Dr Angela Stott and Coretha van den Heever, they attended 30 sessions on the UFS South Campus, with a total of 140 hours of face-to-face contact time, coupled with many hours of individual work at home, to prepare for the competition.

Their hard work paid off handsomely, with all 23 learners (who worked on 21 projects) achieving medals: six bronze, seven silver, and eight gold. Additionally, five of the learners won best-in-category awards, three won SA Youth Water prizes, and three were shortlisted for the international EYS competition.

“As an introvert, I found it difficult to explain my project to people, but I’ve developed communication skills and confidence through Expo,” said 15-year-old Nicolas Hugo, from Kagisho Secondary School, whose project won a gold medal. Nicolas studied water pollution levels at two inflow sites in the Bloudam catchment area, as well as the dam itself and its outflow, showing the astounding cleaning effectiveness of water reeds.

In addition to his gold medal he won the prize for the best project in his category, a special award in the category of water projects, and for the Best Development Project.

The UFS has a strong commitment to community engagement, and has been working with township schools throughout the province via school-university partnerships for over a decade. The 2023 Bloemfontein EYS competition celebrated the legacy of these partnerships not only through the 23 learners who were directly involved in the UFS programme over the past year, but also through the participation of 14 learners from two schools (Senakangwedi and Setjhaba Se Maketse) in Botshabelo as a direct result of the UFS’s work in those schools in the past. Before UFS ended its partnership with these schools, learners who had been involved in Expo programmes conducted by Dr Stott established science clubs in their schools. These clubs have continued to operate years after UFS exited the schools and the founding learners matriculated. This year these clubs yielded the winning project, Solar Power Stand, by Simthembile Hlahliso and Kabelo Sekoere from Senakangwedi High School.

Many of the learners said they have learned important skills through this process. “I didn’t know how to use a computer, but now I’m so good,” said Sylvia Hlangabeza, who won a gold award.

“I’m so proud of her, I cried,” said Sylvia’s proud mother.

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