Eureka! Science Week hits Wits

MULTI-COPTER: Electrical Engineering student Jarren Hilton Lange explains how his multi-propeller drone  is   remote controlled and cannot crash because of a stability factor.                    Photo: Zelmarie Goosen

MULTI-COPTER: Electrical Engineering student Jarren Hilton Lange explains how his multi-propeller drone is remote controlled and cannot crash because of a stability factor. Photo: Zelmarie Goosen

Doctors will in future be able to operate remotely on patients on different continents using a robotic hand, which was on show during this year’s Wits Science Week.

The exhibition is a part of the National Science Week initiative, which hosts events all over South Africa. The robotic hand was one of the most popular exhibits, along with flaming balloons and flying drones.

The robotic hand, which can be controlled from any location using two cameras, a computer and Wii remotes as sensors, was developed by Health Systems-Dynamics lecturer, Steven Dinger.

“It’s a new field,” he said. “It’s creating the ability for world-class surgeons to operate on patients in a different country.”

Dinger explained that such technological advancements would allow surgeons to operate safely in war zones without going into the field.

“It will also make way for surgeons to operate on patients in third-world countries from South Africa, Europe or America.”

The flaming balloons were filled with hydrogen and then set alight, creating a large boom, which wowed the crowds of Witsies and school children. The drones, built by engineering students, could hover above the ground and fly, when controlled from an iPad.

With over 15 exhibits, students could observe different experiments, look through microscopes at microbiological samples, drink South African herbal teas and even eat instant frozen yogurt formed using nitrogen.

“We want to break the stereotype that science is inaccessible to women or black people.”

Lectures during Science Week ranged from how modern human thought developed by Prof Lyn Wadley to understanding the importance of crystal structures by Chemistry lecturer Dr Manuel Fernandez and also searching for life beyond Earth by Dr Andreas Faltenbacher and Sashin Moonsamy from the Wits School of Physics.

Head of Wits Community University Partnerships, Dr Mahomed Moolla, highlighted the importance of getting all school kids to do science, irrespective of gender or race.

“We want to emphasise that both girls and people of colour can also do science. We want to break the stereotype that science is inaccessible to women or black people.”

Moolla headed up an initiative called “Science Slam”, which is the first part of a bigger project to help the public understand science. Wits PhD students are encouraged to present their work to high school students and members of the public.
“We want to create new knowledge that is accessible to the public.”

Dr Ian McKay, an organiser of the week’s events on campus, told Wits Vuvuzela their aim was to expose schools and Witsies to the science and technology Wits had to offer.

”We want to bring about a concept and display of the scientific and biological facets of Wits as an institution.”

Vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib said he “hopes this exhibition will encourage people to understand the wonders and diversities of science. From the science behind teas to robotics, engineering and the origins of life on Earth and perhaps even in the skies.”

The exhibition will continue until Saturday August 9. It closes at 3.30pm.

VIDEO: Wits Science Week – Opening by Prof Habib

National Science Week presents cutting edge science and technology at Wits University. Prof Adam Habib, Wits Vice-chancellor, opened the event by welcoming students, staff and visitors to the exhibition of innovation by Witsies in the Senate House concourse.




Wits and Sci-Bono team up for National Science Week

Wits has partnered with the Sci-Bono Discovery centre in Johannesburg to celebrate National Science Week (NSW), a major event aimed at encouraging young people to study science.

Dr. Ian McKay from the Bernard Price Institute for Paleontological Research will be participating in the week-long programme at Sci-Bono,  and Alvin Moodley from Student Recruitment will have a career guidance exhibition.

NSW is celebrated across all nine provinces during the week of 30 July to 4 August 2012. The University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Soweto campus hosted exhibitions of the latest science being done in South Africa at the launch on Saturday. The launch was opened by the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor.

Busloads of school children from the area got a glimpse into science as a choice of tertiary study and as a career path. Institutions like the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and some universities showcased their latest research.

According to the South African National Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), the purpose of the week is to contribute to science, engineering and technology among various sections of the population. It is also to expose learners and teachers to science-based careers, especially those from previously disadvantaged schools. SAASTA is a unit of the Department of Science and Technology (DST).

Although Wits was not present at the launch, which was arranged by the DST and UJ, they are involved in the promotion of science throughout the year.

“Wits is certainly committed to promoting the public understanding of science and aside from our participation in various activities involving National Science Week, we have undertaken numerous public activities this year,” said Wits communication manager Shirona Patel.

Beyond their partnership with Sci-Bono for NSW, she highlighted a few examples of Wits’ participation in the public understanding of science. For instance, Wits was involved in the SKA campaign and hosted important paleosciences lectures, especially in light of the recent Sediba fossil findings. Patel said these were only some examples of their many efforts.

As for Witsies themselves, they will be participating in ‘career speed-dating’ as part of NSW, as well as initiatives that bring art and science together. Witsies will also be presenting and mentoring at several NSW sessions.