Category: Science Centres

North-West champions for robotics

~ by Lerato Molebatsi and Zandile Nkopo

North-West University Mafikeng Science Centre engage local schools in the Techno-youth programme throughout the year. This programme equips learners with computer, communication and problem solving skills.

SAASTA (South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement) hosted a robotics competition at the SAASTA Observatory, from the 1-2 March 2018.  The theme for the competition was “Wild things”. The challenge was to build a robot that could help with the daily chores of a farm or a game reserve.

The robot had to clean, pick food up, feed the animals and even put the animals the cages.

Six best teams from these schools Langa high school (WC), Zacheus Malaza high school (MP), Bisho high school (EC), Springs Girls high school (GP), Itlotleng high school (NC) and Batswana commercial secondary school (NW) participated in the robotics competition. Teams were given instructions for the competition before they could start building their robots.  Batswana learners came up with a design that was fully functional and was able to carry out most of the chores around the game reserve.  Once the programming was done, there was no stopping them.

The challenge was judged based on the number of points scored for each chore completed, the best design and based on team work.

Results were announced and the top three winners were Batswana commercial secondary school obtaining position 1, followed by participants from Gauteng and Eastern Cape. NWU Mafikeng Science Centre would like to congratulate Mr Motelene, Ms Nkopo and the four learners from Batswana commercial secondary school.

Well done to the team and coaches, keep up the good work!

From left to right: Learners in red t-shirts are from Batswana commercial secondary school (Ofentse Mamonong, Kopano Sepeng, Lencoe Kgaje ,Tlotlo Khumalo). The educator is Mr Jankie Motelene.


If your school is interested in participating in the Techno-youth programme, please feel free to contact us on this email address or this telephone number 018-3892606.


Emba Grade 12 – Motivational Session.

Grade 12 learners from various schools in eMbalenhle attended the motivation session

~ by Angela Stratford

Osizweni together with the Department of Education hosted a motivation session for Grade 12 learners for Secondary Schools in eMbalenhle on Monday 28 August 2017 at the eMbalenhle Sasol Recreation Club. The purpose of this intervention was to motivate Grade 12 learners to invest time into their studies so that an improvement can be seen in their year-end results.

Mrs Dumisile Vilakazi, Deputy Chief Education Specialist from the Gert Sibande Region Department of Education shared a presentation which clearly outlined the overall results per school for the past 3 quarters in each subject. This exercise gave Grade 12 learners the opportunity to reflect back on their past performance and motivate them to study even harder as they are approach their final exams.

The event saw a various speakers who have travelled different journeys in life coming together to deliver speeches and motivate the Grade 12 learners. One of the speakers, Sharon Zamisa who is also an Osizweni staff member, spoke about the importance of delayed gratification, where she encouraged learners to work hard today so they may reap the rewards in the future.

Mr Prince Ndela, a former Osizweni Project A learner and a fourth year student at the University of Witwatersrand delivering his motivational speech.

Another speaker, Prince Ndela, a former Osizweni Project A learner and a fourth year student at the University of Witwatersrand, spoke about the sacrifices one needs to make to achieve your dreams. “When you decide to change your life and focus fully on your studies you must be prepared to loose friends along the way, let that not bother you as you would be taking a step in the right direction “said Mr. Ndlela.

A total of 6 learners each from the different secondary schools shared their schools strategy on how they are planning on achieving better results at the end of the year. These strategies included interventions such as afternoon classes, morning sessions as well as teachers especially in practical subjects such as Mathematics and Physical Science becoming more of assistants rather than teachers, meaning they will be giving out equations and monitoring if each student is doing it correctly as opposed to standing in front of the class and solving equations for their learners.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep on moving forward” said one of the learners from Thomas Nhlabathi Secondary School as he quoted Martin Luther King Jr.

Grade 12 learners from various schools in eMbalenhle attended the motivation session

“Overall it was a successful session, the response from the Grade 12 learners was impeccable. We hope that there will be a positive change in their year-end results.” said Fionah Manthata, Osizweni Marketing Assistant.

Oops!… We Did it Again! UKZN wins gold and the trophy for the best individual stand at 2017 Royal Show

~ by Sally Frost

Britney Spears must have had UKZN specifically in mind when she penned the lyrics for her famous song, “Oops! I did it again” –  for once again the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science has pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat, winning Gold and the trophy for the best individual stand at the 2017 Royal Show.

‘UKZN rated highly in all categories, and we were particularly impressed by the enthusiasm and extra effort put in by the students and staff who manned the UKZN stand,’ said Royal Agricultural Show Manager, Terry Strachan.

‘Our win was without doubt due to both the passion and the impressive knowledge of our staff and students at the stand who went out of their way to share their expertise with the general public,’ said mastermind behind the project and Public Relations Officer for the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, Ms Swasti Maney.

Run in conjunction with the second Ukulinga Howard Davis Memorial Symposium, the stand showcased research done within the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences in the fields of climate change and food security.

Attractions included an innovative project being undertaken by UKZN Enactus students involving vertical farming and food security for university students;  an interactive climate change model showing drought and flooding scenarios; work done by UKZN’s Farmer Support Group with small-scale farmers; and specially designed ‘khukhu khayas’ (chicken homes) for easy access to protein supplies.

To add a bit of spice and crowd attraction, the School of Life Sciences had an impressive collection of creepy crawlies on hand, including tenrecs and hissing cockroaches from Madagascar, tarantulas, and an array of boa constrictors both thick and thin.

With STEC@UKZN’s “Dr T” wowing both young and old with her magical science show, there was always a fascinated crowd on hand to learn more about what UKZN has to offer.

The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science has exhibited at the show for several years, consistently winning prizes for its displays.

Pietermaritzburg’s Royal Agricultural Show, now in its 163rd consecutive year, is the premier agricultural and lifestyle event in the province which attracts over 180 000 people during the 10 days that it runs.

Sally Frost

Australia Awards Fellows have been INSPIRED to INSPIRE

by  Australia Awards Fellows

Australia Awards Fellows: Image courtesy of ANU.

Australia Awards are prestigious international scholarships and fellowships funded by the Australian Government. The Australia Awards Fellowships build capacity and strengthen partnerships between Australian organisations and partner organisations in eligible developing countries in support of key development and foreign affairs priorities. Fifteen delegates from eight African countries: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mauritius, Malawi, Kenya and Tanzania were selected to participate in the Australia Awards Fellowship Science Centre Capacity-Building Leadership Training sponsored by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). They were selected based on their commitment and track record on the science centre movement in their respective countries by the Australian National University’s (ANU) Centre for Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) under the Science Circus Africa programme.

Australia Awards Fellows: Image courtesy of ANU.

The six week intensive training programme was hosted by the ANU’s CPAS, Australia’s oldest and most diverse academic science communication centre and the only accredited science communication centre for UNESCO. The training was conducted and coordinated by Prof. Mike Gore (founder of Questacon, Australia), Prof. Sue Stocklmayer (a well-known researcher in Science communication), Dr. Graham Walker (Manager, Science Circus Africa), and supported by Questacon.

They were inspired in many ways, from: designing and running a Science Centre; conceptualizing and building interactive exhibits; developing and presenting educational science shows; how to run teacher training workshops and outreach programmes; techniques for evaluating programmes and exhibits; writing and presenting grant applications and proposals for funding; how to include people with disabilities in centre programmes; how to go about informal learning in general and developing programmes with a special focus on girls and women.

Fellows building interactive exhibits

They had work sessions at science centres in various locations in Australia such as the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Bendigo Discovery Centre in Bendigo, and the Early Start Discovery Centre and Science Centre and Planetarium in Wollongong. They also visited the CSIRO Discovery Centre at ANU and the Canberra Space Centre located on the grounds of the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex.  This provided them with exposure to the operation of science and discovery centres working under different organisational structures.  It also helped to establish networks with the international science centre and science communication community for further collaboration and engagement.

The fifteen fellows (15 drops as they came to be known) each built interactive exhibits which were on display for nearby schools at the Botswana High Commission offices to the amazement of DFAT! They also presented short science show snippets to the DFAT staff with some of the exhibits on display at the DFAT chambers. The awardees also produced splendid science show presentations at CPAS in the presence and under the critical eye of the trainers.

Each delegate had to develop an action plan on how they will implement their learnings back at their home centres and countries. The group completed the programme with great aspirations and determination to set up science centres in their respective countries and/or to implement new programmes and/or improve on existing activities.  The training ended with the fellows being awarded certificates of completion of the Science centre capacity-building training. Since their return, there’s already work being implemented by fellows at their respective science centres and countries like building exhibits, evaluating programs, running new programmes and a lot more. They were all inspired to inspire people back home!

Performing educational science shows they developed during the training