SKA SA Outreach Department

SKA SA wins 3rd place for best exhibition at Scifest Africa 2017

SKA SA was awarded Third Place: Best Exhibition at ScifestAfrica, South Africa’s National Science Festival, at the festival’s awards dinner on Tuesday, 14 March 2017.


The festival, which celebrated its 21stconsecutive eventin Grahamstown, Eastern Cape from 8-14 March 2017, celebrated the theme Tour de Science in support of the International Year for Sustainable Tourism for Development.

The SKA SA exhibition used hands-on activities to take visitors on a journey of discovery through the Universe, Milky Way and Solar System to the SKA site in the Northern Cape. The winning team consisted of SKA SA staff members Thobela Baxana, Mpho Lephaila, Simphiwe Zitha, Ofaletse Mokone, Isabella Rammalla and Mariet Venter, as well as Rhodes University students, Nhlakanipho Mthembu and Samuel Twum. The SKA SA team also facilitated two interactive workshops titled “Colour by numbers” and “RFI Detective”.

SKA and MeerKAT were also profiled on the festival programme through a public lecture presented by SKA SAGeneral Manager: Science Computing and Innovation, Dr Jasper Horrell; the “A conversation with…” dinner series which saw an interview with SKA SA Science Promotions Coordinator, Anja Fourie; and two science cafés, which featured Dr Horrell as well as SKA SA staff member, Thobela Baxana and SKA SA Young Professional, Lerato Sebokolodi, as panel members.

The SKA SA team also participated in outreach events scheduled in Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage, while SKA SA collaborated with the Cape Town Science Centre to introduce more than 400 learners to coding at high schools in Alexandria, Grahamstown, Port Alfred and Uitenhage.

Brandvlei Stofskoppers steal the show at Scifest Africa

The Brandvlei Stofskoppers, a rieldans troupe from Brandvlei in the Northern Cape, returned home with superstar status after they received a standing ovation and calls of “Encore!” at the Scifest Africa official opening on Friday, 10 March 2017.


The troupe, consisting of eight learners from Brandvlei Intermediate School in Brandvlei, Northern Cape, performed for VIPs and the general public before and during the official opening of the National Science Festival by Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor.

The troupe’s visit to the festival was supported by SKA SA, and included participation by the learners and their educator, Thomas Arendse, in festival activities.

Lead female dancer, Luwandri Schräder, said that the highlights of the troupe’s festival experience included the Scifest Africa laser show; meeting NASA Deputy Chief Technologist (Ret.), Jim Adams; and the science show by Germany’s Die Physikanten. “It was also a wonderful experience staying in a school hostel with learners from other provinces. Many of us have never travelled outside of the Northern Cape province, and learning about other South African cultures was eye-opening.”

The rieldans, one of the oldest dance forms in South Africa, was born out of traditional Khoi and San ceremonial dances performed around a fire, and has been practiced by descendants of these indigenous people for many years. Recognised as a form of cultural expression, riel dances typically tell the story of a playful courtship using fancy footwork, showmanship and colourful outfits.

SKA SA headed to semi-finals of FameLab SA

Picture3SKA SA Software Engineer Vereese van Tonder, represented SKA SA at the semi-finals of the FameLab SA science communication competition that was held on Friday, 24 March 2017.

Vereese outperformed other students and young scientists from AIMS SA, SKA SA and the University of the Western Cape, with her talk titled Beam forming for radio astronomy, at the SKA SA FameLab heat held at the Cape Town Science Centre on 7 March 2017.

As winner of the heat, Vereese will also travel to Mauritius in August 2017, to participate in an international SKA SA Science Communication Workshop and share her FameLab experience and skills with tertiary students, content specialists and science communicators from South Africa and the eight SKA African partner countries.

SKA SA young professionals Amish Patel and Aphiwe Hotele were placed second and third respectively in the heat.

FameLab is an international science communication competition that challenges contestants between the ages of 21 and 35 years to present a scientific concept/topic of their choice to the general public with clarity and charisma. Contestants have only three minutes to present their concept/topic, without slides and with only the props they are able to carry onto stage.

The competition is held in over 25 countries, including South Africa, and culminates in the winner of each country final participating in an international final at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival, Cheltenham, UK in July 2017.

Participants in the SKA SA FameLab heat were required to communicate concepts/topics in astronomy, big data, computer science, mathematics, physics, engineering, space sciences, or any other SKA-related field.

Science Beyond Borders 2017

The Square Kilometre Array took part in Science Beyond Borders Festival, also known as Science Tube, which was held at the Thabo Moorosi Multipurpose Centre in Kuruman between 13 and 16 February 2017.

Science Tube is a festival that is designed to celebrate the art of science and technology through activities, interactive exhibitions and outreach at identified communities.

In this year’s event, SKA collaborated with HartRAO in exhibitions, workshops and presentations to primary and high school learners at the Centre.

The SKA SA team was represented by Audrey Dikgale, Telescope Operator and Felicia Mmudi, and intern with the AVN unit. HartRAO was represented by Simphiwe Madlanga, Science Communicator and Thusani Ravhanga, an intern at HartRAO.


Audrey and Simphiwe were responsible for all learner workshops and presentations. The workshop activities were based on creating solar eclipse viewers, astronomy/SKA word searches and colouring galaxies. These were interactive presentations and activities, and promoted the “fun in science” perspective. Due to the large number of learners that attended, two workshops had to be held simultaneously on some of the days.

Felicia and Thusani were responsible for the exhibition stand, which included educational/promotional material distribution, while the rest of the team worked hard communicating science concepts to thousands of learners throughout the week.

SKA SA participates in Southern Star Party

SKA SA participated in the bi-annual Southern Star Party (SSP), held at Leeuwenboschfontein Guest Farm outside Touws River in the Western Cape from 22-27 February 2017.

A star party is a gathering of amateur astronomers for the purpose of observing the sky, but activities at the SSP included astrophotography practicals, an astronomy quiz, guided observing sessions, lectures, a Messier Marathon, a solar eclipse viewing and workshops.

The SSP is organised by StarPeople, a volunteer amateur astronomy group in Cape Town, and was attended by more than 40 amateur astronomers from the Western Cape.

SKA SA General Manager: Communications and Stakeholder Relations, Lorenzo Raynard, presented a lecture which explained the nature, quality and critical role of communications in a big science project such as SKA; outlined the role amateur astronomers play within the public engagement of astronomy; and invited the amateur astronomy sector to collaborate with SKA SA in the co-design of public awareness and school outreach projects.

SKA SA also hosted NASA Deputy Chief Technologist (Ret.), Jim Adams, who presented a lecture about how investments in big astronomy and space sciences projects, such as SKA, will always yield unintended technology and innovation spin-offs.


The next SSP will be held at Leeuwenboschfontein Guest Farm in October 2017.

SKA SA exhibits at second annual Science Forum South Africa

Square Kilometre Array South Africa participated in the second annual ScienceForum South Africa, which was held at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria on 8 and 9 December 2016.

Science Forum South Africa is an initiative of the Department of Science and Technology and is designed as a “publicscience” event open to all interested stakeholders, to provide a platform for discussion and debate on the role ofsciencein South Africa, the African society and globally.

SKA SA had a team of staff members who interacted with stakeholders, members of the public and school learners informing them about the role of SKA in science, as well as career opportunities at the SKA.

The SKA team included Zwivhuya Ramudzuli, Nikhita Madhanpall, Isabella Rammala, Athanaseus Ramaila, Aphiwe Hotele and Mpho Lephaila.


SKA SA also hosted a panel discussion titled Getting involved in the knowledge economy in a practical way. The objective of the session was to initiate a dialogue around realistic ways in which South Africa can meaningfully grow its participation in the global knowledge economy.

The points under discussion were the transitions required in education to break traditional teaching methods in order to instil innovation-and-entrepreneurial mind-set; providing a supportive environment to grow knowledge economy; the process of skills and knowledge transfer; and nurturing talent and career development.

The panel discussion was chaired by Wendy Lucas-Bull from the Barclays Africa Group Limited. The panellists were Sinenhlanhla Dlamini from Ongoye High School, winner of the 2016 Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, Dr Serge Tshibangu from the Sol Plaatje University, Dr Bernie Fanaroff, former SKA SA Project Director and Special Advisor to the current Director; Nikhita Madhanpall, Rea Nkhumise and Olorato Mosiane from SKA SA.

The new SKA SA corporate exhibition was also on display for the first time. The display consists of three 3 metre-wide panels depicting SKA SA instruments including MeerKAT, HERA, C-Bass and the Ghana antenna in Kutunse.

More than 1600 people attended over the two days with more than 100 exhibitors participating in the exhibition.

Report provided by SKA SA