National Science Week

National Science Week Open Lecture

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) kicked off National Science Week (NSW) on Saturday, 1 August by hosting an engaging open lecture for Grade 11 science learners from schools in the greater Cape Flats and Boland area.

Attending the event was Professor Tyrone Pretorius, UWC Vice-Chancellor, who offered a welcome address and highlighted why science matters, in addition to encouraging learners to pursue a career in science as access to science is within learners’ reach.

There were two lectures both relating to the 2015 National Science Week theme, "The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies". The first lecture was given by Professor Ramashwar Bharuthram, eminent Physics Researcher at UWC, entitled “The Fourth State of Matter – Plasma”.

Kevin Brown, a learner from Princeton High, Mitchells Plain said, “The lecture by Professor Bharuthram is very different to what we are used to – I had no idea there was a fourth state of matter because in class we covered matter as a whole.”

The second lecture was presented by Professor Romeel Dave - NRF Research Chair in Cosmology at UWC - entitled, “Stimulating the Universe”, which was an enlightening topic regarding how we see the universe today.

Anathi Tsoni from Luckhoff Secondary School, Stellenbosch said, “There was a lot of information at the lectures, but it was simplified and understandable.”

On the importance of National Science Week, Professor Bharuthram said, “Currently South Africa is facing a challenge in that our core researchers in science are aging, and there is a need for a new generation of science scholars. The National Science Week is a good platform to raise awareness of science and the opportunities there are for science students.”

Professor Shaheed Hartley, Director of the Science Learning Centre for Africa at UWC, in agreement with Professor Bharuthram said, “National Science Week is an important initiative as there is a dedicated time where activities are concentrated on science. It is critical we have initiatives such as this to foster and encourage young minds to think about science as a career path in order to address the gaps we have in the employment market pertaining to a shortage of science professionals.”

Professor Dave said, “Having participated in various outreach programmes at schools, I found that students are unaware that science and research can be a career. Today I spoke to students about the universe, and I also wanted to highlight some of the developments in science happening right here in South Africa. The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is happening right in their backyard, in their lifetime – it is a project that will put South Africa on the map in terms of astronomy. I wanted to convey to the learners that not only is science exciting, but that there are opportunities.“

Following today’s open lecture, the Science Learning Centre for Africa at UWC is preparing to embark on a science road show (3-7 August) in the Southern Cape (Plettenberg Bay, Knysna, George and Mossel Bay area) to promote science as an important discipline for learners to follow and to encourage schools to develop science clubs and science-related activities for learners and teachers.

The UWC-SLCA team will visit a total of 15 schools in the Southern Cape where a series of science experiments, exhibitions and science related activities will be held with learners. Teachers will be encouraged to establish science clubs at their schools and will be provided with the necessary resources to kick-start science activities.