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17 April 2019 | Story Leonie Bolleurs
Science ambassadors
Friends Tekano Mbonani and Chaka Mofokeng are pursuing graduate degrees in respectively Physics at the University of the Free State (UFS) and Astronomy at the University of the Western Cape. The two got together and decided to reach out to the high school, Leseding Technical Secondary School, where they came from.

It was a full house as more than 120 learners packed the hall at the Leseding Technical Secondary School in the Free State, where two young Astronomy researchers had come home to tell their younger peers about their studies and career prospects across South Africa.

Chaka Mofokeng and Tekano Mbonani are both former learners at the high school. Currently pursuing graduate degrees – for Mbonani in Physics at the University of the Free State (UFS), and for Mofokeng in Astronomy at the University of the Western Cape – the two friends got together and decided to reach out to the high school where they came from.

The event took place in January before schoolwork, tests, and exam preparations are occupying learners’ minds, inviting them to think about the big picture – the future, and how to be part of it. This is timely, because in July last year, the MeerKAT radio telescope was inaugurated in the Karoo. The MeerKAT is the first step to the international SKA telescope project, but it is already one of the best radio telescopes in the world and has placed South Africa firmly on the world map of radio astronomy and engineering.

Building a bridge
“This project enables us to build a bridge between secondary and tertiary institutions. Currently focused on senior secondary students, we aim to promote science through outreach events and activities. Using science and technology-based activities and events, such as stargazing at an observatory or exploring the universe in a planetarium, we want to attract these future secondary graduates. We also provide mentorship, hoping to help them improve their academic performance in matric,” said Mbonani.

For a whole morning, they spoke about their journeys, about science, about the skills that scientists acquire during their studies and all the opportunities such studies open up in an era where the 4th Industrial Revolution is predicted to reduce the number of jobs in many traditional professions. They addressed their peers in both English and Sesotho.

Astronomy in South Africa contributes to critical-skills development. Investing in the MeerKAT, for example, meant that over a thousand bursaries were made available through the SKA South Africa Human Capacity Development programme. Young scientists like Mofokeng and Mbonani have the opportunity to be part of MeerKAT science projects through their studies, using machine learning and other skills that are high in demand in today’s world. This was one of the messages they brought home.

Gaining new skills

“As an Astronomy research student, I have gained skills such as data analysis, mathematical modelling, communication and writing, programming, and teamwork, among others. These are requirements for most companies and institutions. With the unfolding of the 4th Industrial Revolution, such skills sets make young and aspiring scientists the perfect candidates for making the most of future opportunities,” reflected Mofokeng.

Most of the learners said they have never attended a science-outreach event. They were inspired by the young scientists’ stories and nearly half of them said they could see themselves pursuing a career in science. The learners also expressed a strong interest in more events of this kind, as well as mentorship during Grades 11 and 12 from peers at university. They asked about the salaries earned by astronomers, how long the studies take, and where astronomers are working in South Africa.

This initiative, started by two bright young scientists, hopefully marks the beginning of many more events of this kind. Mofokeng and Mbonani are already planning what to do on their next trip home.

News Archive

Students’ commitment the focus of architectural exhibition at Free State Arts Festival
2016-07-07

Description: Architectural exhibition  Tags: Architectural exhibition

The traveling exhibition of first-year architecture
students of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan
University consists of 400 exhibition pieces.

Photo: Supplied

A unique travelling exhibition of over 400 pieces will be hosted by the UFS Department of Architecture from 11-23 July 2016. The exhibition, a project of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) School of Architecture is the first exhibition of its kind on this scale.

First exhibition of its kind

The architect Boban Varghese, the head of the Department of Architecture at NMMU, said that a series of projects furthering academic engagements are being implemented under his leadership. This travelling exhibition of first-year architecture students is one of these.

The NMMU School of Architecture is engaged in addressing architectural education that is appropriate and relevant as it responds to the contextual challenges shaped by local and global issues.

Students’ work received recognition

Besides being recognition of student work, which is normally confined within the walls of the Schools of Architecture, the aim of the travelling exhibition is not only to introduce the work to students of other Architecture Schools and the architecture profession itself, but also to share the discipline of architecture with a wider public. In this sense, the exhibition is an educational and cultural event.

This important aspect is manifested in the generous support of the UFS Department of Architecture in sponsoring the second exhibition during the Free State Arts Festival, as a collaborative project between two Schools of Architecture. A third exhibition of the work is foreseen in Johannesburg during the annual Architecture Students Congress at Wits later this year.

432 pieces part of research programme

The exhibition PALLADIO AND THE MODERN
is the first exhibition of its kind of first-year
architecture students’ work in South Africa.

The exhibition entitled PALLADIO AND THE MODERN shows the first two projects of the first-year students when they have just arrived from school with little experience in architectural drawings and in building architectural models. Their dedicated commitment to the task of producing 288 drawings and 144 models - a total 432 exhibition pieces - forms part of a three-year research programme (2013-2015) in architectural composition conducted by the Senior Lecturer in Architecture, Ernst Struwig, Dr Magda Minguzzi and Jean-Pierre Basson. All the work exhibited is done by hand.

In the exhibition, the 36 villas of the Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), initiate a dialogue with the 36 houses of 20th and 21st international and national architects in their reciprocal theme of exploring the language of architecture.

Visiting hours: Monday to Friday 09:00-16:00
Exhibition closes on 23 July 2016

Sponsors:
Department of Architecture UFS; NMMU; Stauch Vorster Architects; The Matrix Urban Designers and Architects Cc; Adendorff Architects and Interiors Cc; NOH Architects; Thembela Architects (Pty) Ltd; Erik Voight Architects; DMV Architecture, MMK Architects; IMBONO F. J. A. Architects CC; dhk Architects; LYT Architecture; B4 Architects.

 

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