Young South African scientists to showcase innovative research at Tunisia engineering and science festival

  • Innovative South African research which includes a cost-effective triage test for real-time detection of Tuberculosis (TB) and a nature-based technology that brings about environmental remediation, will be showcased at this year’s International Festival of Engineering, Science and Technology in Tunisia (I-FEST2).

Keerthana Kishor Nair, a Grade 12 learner at Bryanston High School, and Alexia Hilton Smedmor, Grade 10 learner at Parktown High School for Girls, are set to participate at the I-FEST2 from 22 to 28 March 2024, following their award-winning performance at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists International Science Fair (ISF) in 2023.

The research project by Nair, a Gold medal recipient at last year’s Eskom Expo ISF, does not only detect Pulmonary TB, but it also generates instantaneous results, which makes it more efficient than traditional TB detection methods. This research effectively overcomes the time constraints of the standard TB tests, which can take several days to produce results. With Nair’s method, doctors and healthcare professionals can receive results almost immediately, allowing for prompt treatment of patients.

Alexia Hilton Smedmor, Grade 10 learner at Parktown High School for Girls. Image credit: Eskom

Smedmor, a Silver medal recipient at last year’s Eskom Expo ISF, utilised four different fuel cells as a nature-based technology to bring about environmental remediation while producing energy. The Spekboom Microbial Fuel Cells generated enough current for low-voltage remote monitoring devices. Monitoring plays a crucial role in environmental management activities. In this regard, Microbial Fuel Cells can be effectively used to self-power sensors and electronic systems.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Eskom Development Foundation (Acting), Ms Mologadi Motshele, said: “Eskom Expo, through the empowerment of learners, shows Eskom’s commitment and contribution towards required solutions aimed at addressing the current pressing and future local and global issues, which is demonstrating a profound sense of socio-economic development. These are the young innovative scientists who are driven by first-hand experiences, seeking answers and solutions to the challenges that directly affect the lives of South African citizens. This grassroots approach to problem-solving underscores the importance of Eskom Expo as a flagship event, driving sustainability initiatives and inspiring future generations of innovators in our country”.

Eskom Expo Executive Director, Parthy Chetty, said: “I am reassured by our STEM education initiatives in South Africa when I see two young girls, Keerthana and Alexia, representing our country at this international event. One of our focus areas in Eskom Expo is promoting girl participation in the sciences, and these girls have already achieved excellence in scientific research. I am sure these learners will do us proud, and more importantly, immerse themselves in the North African culture and the idyllic Mediterranean experience”.

This year’s I-FEST2 will be held in Mahdia, Tunisia, and is organised by the Tunisian Association for the Future of Science and Technology. The programme is designed to offer a one-of-a-kind, educational, and enjoyable experience, featuring a range of activities and opportunities for new discoveries. It will also include various excursions to explore the rich Tunisian culture.

Registration to take part in Eskom Expo is open. Learners in grades 4 to 12, along with TVET college learners (NC2 to NC4) can register their research projects by visiting

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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