On Friday 26 August 2011, 35 high- and primary schools competed in the Stellenbosch regional Eskom Expo for young scientists. This gathering was organized by the Institute of Mathematics and Science Education at the Stellenbosch University – a collaboration between the Faculties of Education and Science. A total of 224 projects representing 35 schools in the Boland, West Coast, Overberg and Southern Cape, were entered. Staff and post-graduates students from the Stellenbosch University joined hands with teachers, employees of Eskom and individuals from the private sector to represent the more than 100 judges. The top projects from the participating schools could be entered into 25 different categories, including engineering, medicine, environmental, architecture, etc. Learners had to present their projects visually, as well as orally to the judges, who awarded 22 projects with gold medals, 49 silver and 66 bronze medals after thorough consideration.
Two learners from Bloemhof Meisieskool in Stellenboch, Rozanne Mouton and Liani Strauss, chose to tackle the challenging topic of water pollution. The title of their study was “Helping 2 Overcome waterborne diseases” and the aim was to develop a method to purify polluted river water, using only waste and natural materials with people living in rural areas in mind. With this objective, they constructed a filter using a plastic bottle filled with a nylon bag, sand, charcoal and pebbles, followed by exposure to full sun for different time intervals. They used water from the ghastly polluted Plankenbrug river in Stellenbosch for this study. Monitoring bacterial counts, chemical laboratory analysis and experimenting with different combinations of filtering and UV exposure, rewarded them with very promising and positive results. They performed all their practical work at the Department of Microbiology (US) with the advice and help of postgraduate students. After treatment with their final chosen method, the E. coli counts in the treated water dropped to below acceptable levels, together with the COD, lead, arsenic and phosphorous levels and disolved oxygen content improved significantly. They were awarded a gold medal for their hard work and perseverance.
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