South Africa

Young Pretoria east scientist will present her research at science fair in Turkey

A young Pretoria east schoolgirl is on her way to Turkey to showcase her science capabilities at a fair taking place there on November 24.

Inge Higgins (Grade 9) will jet off to the Middle East after impressing judges with her pioneering research project in October.

One of three learners from Die Hoërskool Menlopark to receive accolades at the 2023 Eskom Expo International Science Fair (ISF), Higgins grabbed first place.

She won the 2023 Top Junior Scientist award and a R50 000 cash prize after her research was entered in the Environmental Studies Category.

She investigated the effect biodegradable olive-pulp plant pots had on the germination and early growth of Afrikaner, Namaqualand Daisy and Sunflower seeds.

Her scientific investigative approach and novel research method impressed the judges as she showed that probiotics accelerated the germination of these seeds.

The pots that Higgins made are suitable for the germination of seeds. These olive-pulp pots can help solve the problem around the waste produced from olive pressing, and also contribute to reducing usage of plastic plant pots.

Her solution to the excess olive pulp is a great one that is an environmentally friendly product.

Turkey is one of the leading countries in the production of olives and olive oil, making her project a good fit for locals attending the fair.

Her impressive research has placed her on a flight to a Turkey science fair, where learners from 14 countries will compete at this year’s Buca International Music, Science, Engineering Energy Fair (IMSEF) in Turkey.

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Higgins will compete against learners from the United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Iran and Italy, among others.

The IMSEF awards ceremony will take place on November 24 and Higgins is one of two South African young scientists awarded the opportunity to present their scientific research in Turkey.

The other learner jetting off to that country is Vera van der Merwe (Grade 10) from Bloemhof Hoër Meisieskool in Stellenbosch, who sill showcase her research project, “The effect of sheep density and length of disturbance on Prosopis seedling germination”, highlighting how the alien plant Mesquite is affecting the farming communities in the Northern Cape in South Africa.

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Mesquite spreads fast and threatens indigenous vegetation as they use up valuable and limited water, and tend to easily establish themselves along drainage lines and onto flood plains. Van der Merwe’s project aims to assist farmers in managing the spread of Mesquite on their farms.

CEO of the Eskom Development Foundation, Mologadi Motshele said: “As our brilliant young scientists embark on the IMSEF in Turkey, we at Eskom extend our heartfelt wishes for a remarkable and enriching experience.

“International science fairs not only serve as platforms for showcasing ground-breaking research but also provide unparalleled opportunities for personal and academic growth.”

Motshele applauded the two learners and commended the Eskom Expo mentors, educators, and organisers who had played pivotal roles in nurturing their scientific journeys.

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“May this journey be filled with discovery, collaboration, and the joy of shared knowledge,” she said.

Eskom Expo executive director Parthy Chetty said: “When we see young girls like Inge and Vera solving problems in our natural environment, we are reassured that South Africa has the bright minds to shape the future of our country.

“It also brings to the fore the value of this unique platform provided by Eskom Expo, to encourage young scientists to step up, step forward, and follow their passion, while contributing as active citizens of our country. These young girls should be role models to other aspiring young girls in our school system.”

The Buca IMSEF is an international conference held in Izmir, Turkey annually from November 20 to 25.

The fair is aimed at school learners, with projects being accepted in all fields of science, engineering and music.

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