Two KZN pupils among four headed to Indonesia for science competition

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

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

Published Apr 24, 2024


Durban – Two KwaZulu-Natal pupils will head to Indonesia next month to represent South Africa in the International Science Technology Engineering Competition (Istec).

Two other pupils, from the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, were also selected.

The Eskom Expo for Young Scientists said research projects by South African pupils that aim to address the country’s energy crisis and determine the extent to which artificial intelligence (AI) can be ethically monitored would be showcased at this year’s Istec in Bali, Indonesia.

The four young scientists will be accompanied by Eskom Expo’s business manager, Rancia Riba.

They won their place to represent the country at the Indonesia competition, renowned as a “hub of innovation and ingenuity” from May 2 – 5 this year. Their selection followed a nomination by a panel of academics and professionals at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists International Science Fair (ISF) in October.

The fifth edition of the Istec aims to encourage research and education in Indonesia, offering participants a platform to nurture their passions in science, technology and engineering. With a focus on fostering collaboration among young scientists, teachers, and budding researchers from diverse backgrounds, the competition endeavours to facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences on a global scale.

The four young scientists are:

Rikyle Jordaan. Picture: Supplied

Rikyle Jordaan, a Grade 12 pupil at Paterson High School in Gqeberha, is set to showcase his research project, “Building a resilient grid: Leveraging solar, wind, and hydro power for improved reliability”. Jordaan constructed a miniature power grid that effectively utilised solar, wind, and hydro energy sources. By integrating these renewable energy resources, his research emerged as a significant contribution to addressing South Africa's energy crisis.

Husna Docrat. Picture: Supplied

Husna Docrat, a Grade 11 pupil at St Dominics Newcastle Curro in KZN, will present her research project, “Exploring the feasibility of bioplastics as alternatives to conventional plastics”. With conventional plastic bags taking approximately 20 years to decompose, Docrat developed a bioplastic solution that offers a sustainable alternative to these widely used pollutants. She has shown an in-depth understanding of the environmental hazards of plastic use. Docrat’s project not only aims to mitigate plastic pollution, it seeks to safeguard the well-being of plants, animals and the environment at large.

S’qiniseko Mpontshane. Picture: Supplied

S’qiniseko Mpilenhle Mpontshane, a Grade 12 pupil at Mandla Mthethwa School of Excellence in Ndumu, KZN, is set to unveil his research project, “Sustainable transportation using a solar-powered autonomous car”. Mpontshane’s innovative autonomous car prototype exemplifies the potential of technology. His research encourages further advancements in renewable energy integration and autonomous vehicle technology. Rigorous performance evaluations conducted on the prototype have demonstrated the effectiveness of integrating solar power to supplement the car's energy needs and implementing advanced navigation systems.

Isabel Lutz. Picture: Supplied

Isabel Lutz, a Grade 10 pupil at Bloemhof Hoër Meisieskool in Stellenbosch, Western Cape is set to present her research project, “Integrating AI-enabled chatbots in the classroom – friend or foe?” The use of chatbots such as ChatGPT, Chatsonic and Google Gemini is becoming prevalent in classrooms worldwide and teachers are grappling with ethical issues arising from pupils’ use of AI. Lutz’s project examines the effectiveness of using chatbots to assist second-language English pupils with essay writing. Through her research, she sought to determine the extent to which AI integration is acceptable and how it can be ethically monitored to prevent violations.

Eskom Development Foundation’s acting chief executive officer, Mologadi Motshele, said: “The research conducted by these young scientists covers a range of pressing contemporary issues, from potential solutions to our country’s persistent energy crisis and advancements in renewable energy integration to understanding the environmental impact of plastic use and exploring the effectiveness of chatbots. These are challenges our society faces today.

“The fact that these young scientists are actively involved in addressing these issues highlights the importance of student participation in the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. It demonstrates the crucial role the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists plays in fostering skilled and enthusiastic scientists and innovators. We extend our best wishes to these four youngsters as they embark on their journey to Bali.”

Eskom Expo executive director Parthy Chetty said: “It is important for Eskom Expo and its partners to ensure we continue to provide opportunities for our learners to thrive locally and travel abroad to compete. This enables the learners to explore their passion for science while sharing their ideas with learners and judges from various countries. This interaction stimulates knowledge and cultural sharing in the science fields and allows these young learners to think global and act local.

“I wish them well in their ventures and look forward to reading about their experiences, on their return.”

Registration for the 2024 Eskom Expo is open. Pupils in grades 4 to 12, along with TVET college learners (NC2 to NC4) can register their research projects by visiting

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