Wits outreach programme wins first prize at country’s biggest science and technology expo.

Wits University team secured first place at Sasol TechnoX which ran from July 29 to August 2, at Secunda, Mpumalanga.

The winning exhibition was a superhero-themed stand, titled Wits Avengers, to encourage real life superheroes.

(left and right): Kabelo Ramollo, Muhammed As’ad Ballim and Gugulethu Nkala, rein-acting their Elephants toothpaste experiment, showcased at Sasol TechnoX. Photo: Tsholanang Rapoo

It included futuristic graphics of the Great Hall, 3D printing, a selfie stand and approximately nine experiments including burning ice, dragon’s breath, flaming hands and elephant’s toothpaste. The theme originated from Business Insider SA’s 2018 article, ‘The closest thing you can find to Wakanda in the real world is Wits, according to the world’s biggest news agency’.

Eight students from two groups – Whizzbang and Materials for Energy Research Group – formed the Wits Avengers, led by the schools liaison office. The winning exhibition was created as part of the university’s community outreach initiatives.

This was the third time in a row Wits won first place. However, this time they shared the first prize with Unisa.

TechnoX is the biggest expo in South Africa aimed at boosting the youth and general public’s interest in science and technology. This is done to inspire learners to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem).

Exhibitors include Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges and universities, government and non-profit organisations as well as corporate institutions.

“Wits believes that we are the leading institution in terms of Stem… We really do believe that Stem careers are our strong point,” Sershin Naicker, head of the schools liaison office, told Wits Vuvuzela.

He said the avengers theme was meant to be as relatable as possible for the learners and to get them excited through visually attractive and interactive stalls.

“[Winning is] nice acknowledgement for your hard work, for the time and energy and your theme but the reality is that we are going there for the kids,” Naicker added.

Gugulethu Nkala, a PhD student, who was part of the winning team, said, “TechnoX is the highlight of my year.” She said the programmes are centred on children to excite them about science and to allow them to see people like them do what they want to do.

“To have the kids shocked like that (by the experiments) it says something about their experience in a lab,” said Sikhumbuzo Masina, another Wits Avenger.

Even though they were disappointed to share the spoils with Unisa, Masina said, “At the end of the day if we bring our best game, the kids will benefit.”

FEATURED IMAGE: Gugulethu Nkala and Karabo Ramollo, reinacting the Dragon’s breath experiment showcased at Sasol TechnoX. Photo: Tsholanang Rapoo