Young SA scientists return from competition with gold and silver medals

S’qiniseko Mpontshane, Isabel Lutz, Husna Docrat, Mmamoloko Rancia Riba (delegation leader) and Rikyle Jordaan. Picture: Supplied

S’qiniseko Mpontshane, Isabel Lutz, Husna Docrat, Mmamoloko Rancia Riba (delegation leader) and Rikyle Jordaan. Picture: Supplied

Published May 8, 2024


Durban — A Grade 11 KwaZulu-Natal pupil won a gold medal and a Grand Award certificate in the International Science Technology Engineering Competition (Istec) held in Bali, Indonesia.

Research projects by young South African scientists brought them several awards at the fifth edition of the competition.

This edition of the competition aimed to encourage research and innovation in Indonesia, offering participants a distinct platform to nurture their passions in science, technology and engineering.

Husna Docrat. Picture: Supplied

Husna Docrat, a Grade 11 pupil at St Dominics Newcastle Curro in KZN, was a gold medal recipient and a Grand Award certificate receiver, after impressing judges with her research project, titled, “Exploring the feasibility of bioplastics as alternatives to conventional Plastics”.

With conventional plastic bags taking about 20 years to decompose, Husna developed a bioplastic solution that offers a sustainable alternative to these widely used pollutants.

“I am very grateful to be given the opportunity by Eskom Expo for Young Scientists and all my mentors that have taken the time to help and encourage me and made it possible for me to be here. I am overwhelmed with excitement at the fact that I have won a gold medal and a Grand Award. It has been a dream of mine, and I am so glad that I could accomplish it. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my parents, siblings and family members,” Husna said.

“My highlight of the trip was meeting and interacting with individuals from across the world. They have all been extremely friendly and welcoming. And of course, winning the awards to bring home to South Africa.”

Rikyle Jordaan. Picture: Supplied

Rikyle Andrio Jordaan, a Grade 12 pupil at Paterson High School in Gqeberha; S’qiniseko Mpilenhle Mpontshane, a Grade 12 pupil at Mandla Mthethwa School of Excellence in Ndumu, KZN; and Isabel Lutz, a Grade 10 pupil at Bloemhof Hoër Meisieskool in Stellenbosch, all scooped silver medals at the Istec.

Rikyle presented his research project, titled “Building a resilient grid: Leveraging solar, wind, and hydropower for improved reliability”.

“It has been an exciting journey participating in the Istec, eye-opening in terms of mission and vision. I didn’t think I was going to win an award, let alone a silver medal, due to the complexity of the competition as we competed with university and college students from across the globe. It feels great representing my country, pedigree, school and the whole ascending at the global stage,” Rikyle said.

S’qiniseko Mpontshane. Picture: Supplied

S’qiniseko showcased his research project, titled “Sustainable transportation using a solar-powered autonomous car”.

“Winning an award at the Istec was truly validating, recognising the dedication poured into the project. It is humbling and motivating to receive international recognition for hard work and passion. This experience was enriching, as we had an opportunity to engage with different perspectives, and I was inspired by innovative projects globally,” S’qiniseko said.

Isabel Lutz. Picture: Supplied

Isabel presented her research project, titled “Integrating AI-enabled chatbots in the classroom – friend or foe?”

Isabel said: “Participating in the Istec was an extraordinary experience, which brought me immense happiness and pride. It was a clear sign of the exceptional teamwork that we are, and the successful outcomes we achieved after putting in so much effort.”

“To the young aspiring scientists, I offer this advice: persevere even when faced with challenges. Stay committed to your goals, and remember that overcoming obstacles brings you closer to achieving your dreams.”

S’qiniseko Mpontshane, Husna Docrat, Isabel Lutz, and Rikyle Jordaan. Picture: Supplied

Acting Eskom Development Foundation chief executive officer Mologadi Motshele said: “Congratulations to the remarkable young scientists whose individual work was recognised internationally to receive the awards and medals at the Istec in Bali, Indonesia.

“Indeed, their outstanding achievements not only showcase individual brilliance, but also underscore the collective potential of the South African youth in driving innovation and excellence. The research projects undertaken by these youngsters are not merely academic pursuits but hold significant promise in addressing real-world challenges faced by our nation. The dedication of the young scientists to advance knowledge and find practical solutions reflects a commitment to shaping a brighter future for South Africa and beyond. Well done!”

S’qiniseko Mpontshane, Isabel Lutz, Husna Docrat, Mmamoloko Rancia Riba (delegation leader) and Rikyle Jordaan. Picture: Supplied

Eskom Expo executive director Parthy Chetty said: “It is very exciting to see our learners competing with some of the best in the world and excelling. These learners come from all parts of the country and it is promising to see that our long-term STEMI initiatives are bearing fruit across all nine provinces and across all school types irrespective of their location. It is equally pleasing to note that these learners use the expertise of various people in a mentorship role in addition to the support from their teachers.”

Looking ahead, registration to take part in the 2024 Eskom Expo is open. Pupils in Grades 4 to 12, along with TVET college pupils (NC2 to NC4) can register their research projects by visiting

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