SA learners to present cutting edge research in Beijing Science competition

Illustration of a science fair. Image created by Marcus Moloko

Four South African learners will have the opportunity to present their research projects and compete against other tech scientists at this year’s Beijing Youth Science Creation Competition in China.

The Competition under the theme Discovery, Innovation, and Responsibility will feature the four young scientists alongside Dr Sure Mupenzeni, Eskom Expo provincial coordinator for Limpopo after they secured their place to represent the country at last year’s Eskom Expo for Young Scientists Science Fair in October.

Nyakallo Nonjabulo Mbongo, in Grade 11, who won a gold medal at last year’s Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, will present her research project titled Soil Restoration, inoculated biochar.

Moved by how soil degradation threatened crop growth and food security, she explored various biochar inoculations and performed several precise experimental trials to arrive at her conclusion, which is that small-scale farmers and gardeners can improve the quality of their crop yield by using cost-effective and available inoculated biochar.

Kiyara Tami Swartbooi, A Grade 12 Port Rex Technical High School learner from East London, will have the opportunity to present her research project titled Thermal Faucet, an innovative water management system.

Swartbooi’s smart faucet (tap) prototype addresses two issues, water and energy conservation.

The innovation research project hopes to produce an intuitive and cost-effective solution where smart home technology embraces energy and water conservation.

Steffan Thielen and Rohan van Loggerenberg from Paul Gymnasium in Stellenbosch will showcase their research project titled Optimization of Artificial Neural Network Training.

This research answers the question, how can the architecture of an artificial neural network be optimized through the use of a dynamic network architecture?

They aimed at a system that adapts itself to efficiently fit the purpose during training. The pair brought an in-depth understanding of artificial neural networks and AI and were able to articulate how current findings in these fields were related to their research.

Participating in the Eskom Expo offers young scientists valuable opportunities to nurture their creativity, enhance problem-solving abilities, and refine research skills while devising innovative solutions to everyday challenges, Chief Executive Officer of the Eskom Development Foundation Mologadi Motshele said.

“When our budding scientists engage in international competitions like the BYSCC, they gain exposure to distinctive learning environments that can greatly benefit our nation. The transformative experiences awaiting these four learners will contribute to a cycle of knowledge-sharing, fostering more opportunities for aspiring young scientists to compete on a global scale and cultivating a pipeline for potential future scientists and engineers for our country,” she added.

Eskom Expo Executive Director, Parthy Chetty, said: “Eskom Expo is grateful for the bilateral agreement with the Beijing Association for Science and Technology for hosting the South African team each year. The opportunities presented to these four young scientists will open up their minds to new scientific experiences and create life-long friends along the way, transcending borders across continents. These ambassadors will return to South Africa more enlightened and will be in a better position to promote STEMI- and Expo activities back in their schools, districts and regions.”

A total of 199 projects were submitted by Beijing students, while 21 projects were submitted by participants from other countries, including the Czech Republic, Indonesia, Italy, Russia, South Africa and Thailand, amongst others.

Registration to take part in 2024 Eskom Expo is open. Learners in grades 4 to 12, along with TVET college learners (NC2 to NC4) can register their research projects by visiting

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