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Taking Physics to the heart of Venda

- Wits Univesity

The Wits School of Physics reached out to learners in Venda during National Science Week.

A team from the Wits School of Physics used the National Science Week (NSW) as an opportunity to spread the word of physics when they visited high school learners last month.

Every year, during NSW, the team reaches out to the community by hosting workshops on science and inspiring high school learners about the world of science, engineering and other technical subjects. This year, they visited learners from the Mukula High School in Venda, Limpopo, in a week-long visit.

The National Science Week (NSW) is an annual countrywide celebration of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation, and is an initiative of the Department of Science and Technology.

This year the NSW theme was; Science for Sustainable Development and Improved Quality of Life. With this theme in mind, the community outreach aimed to share knowledge with disadvantaged communities by showing them the impact that science has had, and its future prospects on the development of the country.

For the physics team, the NSW this year was not simply an annual gathering. It was an opportunity for them to remind the students of the approaching exam deadline, to motivate them, and more importantly, it was a perfect time to show the learners that a career in science is a fulfilling and rewarding.

Mainly sponsored by the South African Institute of Physics, the team piqued the curiosity of the learners by assembling their big telescopes on their arrival at the school – setting the “physics” ambiance for the day.

Two hours later, the learners enjoyed  demonstrations of bending light with lenses onto balloons, focusing the sunlight with a parabolic mirror, optical communication using light, mechanical-to-electrical energy  conversion, bending and polarising microwaves and scanning the sky through a telescope. 

By the end of their visit in Limpopo, the team’s efforts were ubiquitous as they further enticed the learners on the subject of science with students asking questions such as: “how long does it take you to become a doctor?”, “why did you choose the Science?”, “what do I need to do to study at Wits?” and “Is it difficult to study there?”

The community educational programme is an annual event for the Physics team. They hope to extend their project to various communities in and around Gauteng as they aim to attract more students into the fields of science, engineering and technology by reaching them at school level.

Team member and physics PhD student, Bienvenu Ndagano says that celebrating NSW in Limpopo and imparting knowledge to disadvantaged communities was a pleasurable experience.

“When visiting disadvantaged areas, you realise the challenges that those learners experience on a daily basis. You might even worry about whether the efforts we put in this type of outreach is worth it. But when you speak to them about science, and explain the physical realities they are not aware of, it is always rewarding to see them amazed by things we, at our level, would find obvious. It is at that moment that you realise the impact of what we do during these outreach activities and how that affects someone else's life.”

Read more about their journey to Venda on their blog.