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Grade 11 learners investigate asteroid impact at Wits experience

- Wits University

The Wits Integrated Experience kicked off its sixth short course this year designed to expose grade 11 to university life.

Wits Integrated Experience 2023

Over 200 learners from 55 schools in Gauteng visited Wits University for part one of the experience. Learners took part in an annual integrated real-world problem-solving exercise using a multidisciplinary approach.

This year they have been asked to investigate a predicted imminent impact of an asteroid close to Johannesburg. Learners were introduced to meteorites and impact craters before being briefed on the specific parameters of the impact event.

They then had the opportunity to interact with various staff across geosciences, health sciences, economic and management sciences, humanities and engineering on the different aspects of the problem, including the immediate threats that the impact will pose to people and infrastructure, the longer-term environmental and economic consequences, emergency medical and evacuation protocols, and heritage preservation.

"The Wits Integrated Experience is a project setup for grade 11 learners to come here before they enter their matric year. We want them to experience all the faculties and degrees at Wits,” said Zodwa Ndebele from the Schools Liason Office.

"We want to prepare them for their application process and give them insight into what they could study here at Wits based on their interests."

Learners interacted with different types of meteorite rocks and learnt about the psychology of dealing with such a disaster. Health sciences also explored the need for medical care in the event of an asteroid impact.

"I enjoyed the engineering faculty because I love aeronautical engineering. I loved the presentation and I had the opportunity to see the fighter jet," said Lola Cardoso from De La Salle Holy Cross College.

Cardoso’s teacher Fran Harrison said she was impressed with the programme and how complex the tasks were that learners had to complete.

"I'm impressed by all the learners and the tasks they have to do. I think it's challenging and I love the integration of all the different departments. It's been wonderful to see Wits because I am a Witsies myself. To come back and see what they've achieved here is amazing."

Learners interact with meteorite rocks at Geosciences

Grade 11 learner Bahle Mabaso from the John Orr Engineering School of Specialisation said that he enjoyed the teaching methods of Wits academics.

"When I came here I thought the lecturers would be uptight but the way they shared information with us made us feel very comfortable. Law has been nice because the content there was interesting."

St. Barnabas College science teacher Sibusiso Gama said the experience was eye-opening as it allowed students to foresee what may happen when they go into their tertiary studies.

"This programme is important because it exposes learners to content they probably won't cover at school. Secondly, they get exposure to people they could work with within the higher education learning space," said Gama.

The learners have seven weeks to prepare a Response Plan to mitigate threats posed by the asteroid impact, which they will present to a panel of "experts" at Wits in August. This will culminate in an awards ceremony on the same day, where certificates and prizes will be handed out.