STEC@UKZN Participates in STEM Fair

Pietermaritzburg Girl’s High School (GHS) pulled out all the stops at their Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Fair.

The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) and its Science Centre, STEC@UKZN were invited to provide information about the University and fun scientific educational demonstrations.

Members of STEC@UKZN had a plethora of gadgets on display, including an infrared camera, which measures the temperature of the surface of objects (a cooling gel that, when applied to the skin, demonstrates surface temperature change). Motion sensors displayed an object’s velocity on a position versus time graph. When the light was shone on the solar panels, learners witnessed solar energy in action. STEC@UKZN also brought along their rock box with three types of rocks – igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic.

GHS learners showcased their favourite subjects, with the robotics and engineering booth displaying a variety of projects by Grade 10 to 12 learners. They included a miniature car, a water extraction device made of plastic buckets and pipes, and a fully restored Wisconsin heavy-duty air-cooled engine with a wide range of applications, from industrial to agricultural.

The life sciences booth displayed a wide variety of plastic body parts as well as the Van De Graaf generator, a tool used to demonstrate static electricity. When a learner placed a hand on the sphere, the electrons on the generator’s ball repelled one another and spread out onto the person, causing the hair on their head to stand up and spread apart.

The chemistry group performed an outside show every 30 minutes to demonstrate various chemical reactions. For example, ammonium dichromate was mixed with a few drops of ethanol and set on fire to create the illusion of a mini live volcanic eruption. Another entertaining demonstration was the Elephant’s toothpaste, a foamy substance created by combining water, hydrogen peroxide, yeast and dish-washing liquid. It is frequently used in science classes to demonstrate an exothermic reaction.

The quantum computing display offered learners the opportunity to experience a quantum computing lesson on a laptop.

As the fair ended, the STEC@UKZN team produced a final fun gadget in the form of a drone. Learners were able to view imagery from the drone on the display screen while it was in flight.

The fair demonstrated how cool and entertaining science can be, as well as how much fun scientists have with their experiments and inventions.

Words: Cindy Chamane

Photographs: Supplied