No sooner had Civil Engineering magazine reported in the June 2013 edition on the fact that SAICE’s AQUALIBRIUM schools water competition had gone international than we learnt that the competition has been chosen as a finalist in the annual NSTF-BHP Billiton Awards.
The National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) and BHP Billiton hosted their annual awards gala dinner, which is the highlight on the South African science agenda. The standard is extremely high – this year only twelve awards were made across the science, engineering and technology spectrum. Making it to the NSTF-BHP Billiton Awards as a finalist is therefore an exceptional achievement, and that is exactly what SAICE’s AQUALIBRIUM schools water competition managed to do in the category where an individual or team is recognised for their outstanding contribution to science, engineering, technology and innovation (SETI) through science communication and through creating science awareness. The SAICE team comprises Prof Kobus van Zyl from UCT, and Marie Ashpole and Fridah Mahlangu from SAICE National Office.
The event, attended by at least 500 guests, was held at Emperors Palace, Johannesburg, on Thursday 27 June. Speaking at the event the Chairman of BHP Billiton SA, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, said that one of the aims of the NSTF is to popularise maths, engineering and science, as these subjects open a gate to escape from the cycle of poverty. The awards were presented to the winners by Minister Trevor Manuel, Minister in the Presidency on behalf of Minister of Science and Technology, Mr Derek Hanekom.
The winner in the category in which SAICE entered its AQUALIBRIUM schools water competition was Prof David Block, Professor in Applied Mathematics and Astronomy, and Director of the Cosmic Dust Laboratory at the University of the Witwatersrand. Prof Block’s skill at communicating astronomy to school learners has earned him the title of South Africa’s Carl Sagan. To have been judged in the same category as a man of such stature is wonderful recognition for SAICE’s AQUALIBRIUM schools water competition.