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Grade 11 learners investigate Johannesburg gas explosion at Wits

- Wits University

The seventh annual Wits Integrated Experience short course commenced in June, with this year's learners assigned to investigate a gas explosion.

This short course exposes grade 11 learners from various schools across Gauteng to real-life scenarios and problem-solving exercises that develop their 21st-century soft skills such as critical thinking and creativity in finding solutions to otherwise disruptive problems.

This year, they have been assigned to investigate the methane gas leak that caused an explosion on Lillian Ngoyi Street (formerly Bree Street) that rocked the Johannesburg city centre in 2023.

Learners partnered with Wits academics to investigate ways of assessing failing infrastructure and potential damage caused, the possible impact on local communities, processing data collected and proposing how to deal with such a crisis from various disciplines in all faculties.

They were introduced to the state-of-the-art Sibanye Stillwater Digital Mining Laboratory (DigiMine) in Engineering and experimented with small explosions at the School of Chemistry in Science. They also explored the world of robotics with the RAIL (Robotics, Autonomous Intelligence and Learning) robotics dog in Computer Science.

"So far, based on all the resources the university has given us and the people I have working with me, we confident enough that we will come up with something and hopefully win the competition", said Elih Van Ross, a grade 11 pupil from St. Barnabas School of Specialisation.

The learners will return to Wits on 19 July for a report-back presentation in front of a panel of “experts”. They will present their investigation in groups of five. This will then culminate in an awards ceremony on the same day.

"I think this will be a challenge, especially since we are the ones who need to come up with the solutions. I love getting pushed past my comfort zone and my boundaries so I think it is a challenge I am set up to do," said Dainfern College pupil Mikayla Ernst.

Grade 11 pupils inside the Electron Microscope lab at Wits University

Nhlakanipho Mngadi, a grade 11 pupil from Thuto-Lesedi Secondary School, said that the number of schools participating makes it more competitive, but his team is in high spirits.

"Everyone will be working at their best, putting in all the effort so we need to give it our everything, but I'm grateful that they've given us this opportunity to conduct this research," said Mngadi.

This experience will also expose learners to the evolving career opportunities within the different faculties and showcase the interdisciplinary nature of these various branches within the five disciplines. This course will assist learners in making better-informed decisions about subject choices, careers and higher education opportunities that lead to the future world of work.