SKA SA Outreach Department

NASSP/SAAO SUmmer School students visit SKA South Africa offices in Cape Town

A group of 20 National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme / South African Astronomical Observatory (NSSP / SAAO) Summer School students visited the SKA South Africa offices in Cape Town on Wednesday, 25 January 2017. The group was hosted by the CAM and AVN teams. The visit started off with a talk covering the basics of radio astronomy, hosted by Anton Joubert. The architecture, project timeline and science cases for MeerKAT were presented by Martin Slabber. Paul Swart gave a talk on similar aspects of the SKA-mid and low telescopes. Nkululeko Qwade presented topics covering VLBI and the current progress within the AVN team, with a focus on the telescope conversion taking place in Ghana.

Bulelani Xaia told the students all about the Young Professionals Development (YPD) Programme and her experiences within the programme. Athanaseus Ramaila hosted a fun quiz towards the end of the visit. A tour of the facilities followed, with Qwabe leading them on a tour of the AVN laboratories and Audrey Dikgale hosted the students in the Control Room and explained all about the knobs, dials and displays at the telescope operator’s fingertips.

SKA South Africa hosts Communication Stakeholder Forum


SKA South Africa hosted a Communication Stakeholder Forum with the Pixley Ka Seme district Communications Forum in Carnarvon on Monday, 27 and Tuesday, 28 February 2017. The two-day programme included a tour of the SKA site at Losberg.

This forms part of SKA South Africa’s continuous efforts to collaborate with all levels of government. The Pixley Ka Seme district Communications Forum is responsible for communication to the communities in the broader Pixley Ka Seme municipal district.

Delegates included members of the Pixley Ka Seme district municipality, the Media Diversity Development Agency, the Mail and Guardian, Government Communication and Information Systems, Brand South Africa, The New Age, Northern Cape Tourism, the Pixley Ka Seme Community Arts Forum, the Department of Science and Technology Communications unit, and the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement.

On Monday, 27 February 2017, a workshop was held during which representatives from Brand SA, the Mail and Guardian, the Communications Manager from the Pixley Ka Seme municipal district, Beatrice Bosch, and SKA South Africa delivered presentations on their respective roles and responsibilities.

Strategies to profile SKA on local municipal level, on regional, provincial and national level formed an integral part of the discussion, and a resolution was undertaken by the Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS) committing to share communications platforms with SKA South Africa to ensure that the positive impact that SKA South Africa has on the Northern Cape and local communities, is shared.

Representatives from the Media Diversity Development Agency also committed to engage community media platforms in the Northern Cape to assist in communicating aspects of the project to the local communities.

On Tuesday, 28 February 2017 the delegation was taken on a site visit to Losberg. The feedback from the group was overwhelmingly positive and the overall consensus was that the project is something that the Northern Cape is extremely proud of.

SAN Council of South Africa visits SKA site

Square Kilometre Array South Africa hosted the San Council of South Africa at the SKA site at Losberg outside Carnarvon on 15 March 2017.

During the visit the chieftainship of four San tribes and the Griqua Khoi held a ceremonial blessing and cleansing of the SKA project and site. The San tribes that were present include the, !Xun and Khwe from Platfontein, the Khomani San and the Xam from the Eastern Cape. The Khomani San Traditional Dancers travelled all the way from the Kalahari to entertain the delegation with a dance that depicts the San cosmology.

The San Peoples are members of the earliest, hunter-gatherer, ancestors of humankind to inhabit Southern Africa. Their territories spanned a large portion of the Southern region, including South Africa and specifically the Northern Cape, overlapping with the core area where the SKA is being built in the Karoo.

Chief Katriena Esau of the Western N!U, a tribe of the Khomani-San, lead the ceremonial cleansing and blessing of the SKA project and site. The 84 year old Ouma Katriena, as she is fondly known, is one of only a few people who can speak the ancient N!U language fluently. She is the first woman who was officially inaugurated as the chief of the Western N!U tribe and received the National Order of Boabab from President Zuma for her excellent contribution in the preservation of a language facing a threat of extinction.

SKA South Africa is committed to working with both local and indigenous communities to ensure that they are positioned to benefit from the project. SKA South Africa Managing Director, Dr Rob Adam said: “It is unthinkable to have the SKA project in South Africa without the involvement of the San Peoples.”

When Dr Adam was the Director General of the Department of Science and Technology he drafted the policy on Indigenous Knowledge Systems. “I am pleased to have come full circle from the time when I drafted policies to where we are now where indigenous people are working closely with us on research projects such as the SKA,” said Dr Adam.

In his address to the delegation, the Kareeberg Mayor Mr Norman van Wyk reiterated his commitment that the municipality is in full support of the success of the SKA project.

Members of the San Council of South Africa at the signing of the SKA SA – SAN Council of SA MOU in Cape Town on 16 May 2017.

SKA South Africa signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the San Council of South Africa on Tuesday, 16 May 2017 in Cape Town. This follows the ceremonial blessing and cleansing which took place in March 2017 at the Losberg site in the Northern Cape, by chieftainship of four San tribes and the Griqua Khoi.

Through this agreement, both the SKA South Africa and SCSA agree to explore opportunities for the promotion and growth of San Peoples with specific focus on:

1. The promotion of the San culture and heritage;
2. The protection of the San culture and heritage; and
3. The development of the youth of the San Peoples.

Swiss delegation visits SKA site at Losberg

A Swiss delegation visited the SKA site on Tuesday, 21 March 2017.

SKA South Africa Chief Scientist, Dr Fernando Camilo led the Swiss delegation which included the Swiss Ambassador to South Africa Helene Budlinger, her spouse Alex Artieda, the Swiss State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation Mauro Dell’Ambrogio, the President of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) Martin Vetterli, Professor Jean-Paul Kneib, Astronomy Professor and Swiss Scientific Coordinator: SKA, Danièle Rod, Advisor to the EPFl Presidency and Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE) manager, Olivier Küttel, Advisor to the EPFL Presidency on European Union Public Affairs, Bernadette Hunkerel Brown, Consul, Malin Borg Soares, Scientific Advisor and Dr Thomas Auf der Heyde, Deputy Director-General in the Department of Science and Technology, South Africa.

European Parliament delegation visits SKA South Africa office in Cape Town

Members of the European Parliament visited the SKA SA Pinelands office in Cape Town on Friday, 21 April 2017.

A delegation of the European Parliament visited the SKA South Africa office in Cape Town on 21 April 2017. The delegation included Hans van Baalen from the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe and Chair of the delegation; Boris Zala, from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and 1st Vice-Chair of the delegation; Sabine Verheyen from the Group of the European People’s Party and 2nd Vice-Chair of the delegation; Markus Ferber from the Group of the European People’s Party; Theodor Dumitru Stolojan from the Group of the European People’s Party; Anthea McIntyre from the European Conservatives and Reformists Group; Martina Dlabajová from the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe; Fabio de Masi from the European United Left/Nordic Green Left; David Borrelli from the Europe People’s Party; Stefano Felician from the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group; Rok Koželj, administrator; and Niina Väänäen, assistant.
The delegation was welcomed by Dr Rob Adam, SKA South Africa Managing Director, before given an overview of the project and taken on an extended tour of the Pinelands facilities including the control room, the radio frequency lab, the digital back-end lab, the digital back-end testing lab, the correlator beamformer lab; and the AVN lab.

Strategic partnerships and Northern Cape Stakeholder Engagement

SKA South Africa and Kareeberg Local Municipality collaborates

Members of the SKA South Africa management team had a one day workshop with members of the Kareeberg Local Municipality on 1 February 2017 to provide input to the Municipality’s Integrated Development Planning (IDP).

The Municipality undertook to include SKA South Africa in its five-year development strategy. All aspects of the SKA South Africa project relating to the Municipal IDP was discussed. A brief summary of the science behind the SKA was given and land acquisition, infrastructure development, schools programmes, human capital development, telecommunications, stakeholder relations and requirements and support from the Municipality were also discussed.

During the meeting members of the Municipality, the regional municipality and SKA South Africa agreed and confirmed that collaboration is key to the success of the mutually beneficial relationship between the Municipality and SKA.

The Municipality was represented by Mayor Norman van Wyk, the municipal manager Willem de Bruyn, the Coordinator of Special Projects Koos Gous, and several other members of the Municipal Council.

SKA South Africa was represented by several staff members delivering presentations to the members of the Municipality, which included Kim de Boer, Lorenzo Raynard, Tracy Cheetham, Dr Adrian Tiplady, Pontsho Maruping and Dr Anton Binneman.

The Northern Cape Province was represented at the meeting by Paki Monyobo, Project Manager in the Northern Cape Provincial Government; Zolie Mjandana and Mxolisi Bosman from the Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta); Gerhard de Bruin from the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management unit in the Northern Cape Department of Rural Development; and Beitrice Bosch from the Pixley Ka Seme District Municipality.

Through interactions such as this, SKA South Africa continues to build on the positive relationship with local municipalities through collaborations on different levels and affecting all sectors of the local communities around the project.

SKA South Africa and Karoo Hoogland local municipality collaborates

Following the meetings with the Kareeberg Municipality, members of the SKA South Africa management team had a one-day workshop with the Karoo Hoogland Municipality on 8 February 2017 to provide input to the Municipality’s Integrated Development Planning (IDP).

The Karoo Hoogland Municipality is the same municipality that hosts SALT in Sutherland and the municipality will also host about 50% of the SKA.

The Municipality undertook to include SKA South Africa in its five-year development strategy and into its Spatial Development Framework (SDF). All aspects of the SKA South Africa project relating to the municipal Integrated Development Plan and SDF was discussed.

A brief summary of the science behind the SKA was given and land acquisition, infrastructure development, schools programmes, human capital development, telecommunications, stakeholder relations and requirements and support from the Municipality were also discussed. SKA will be using one of the Municipalities’ offices as a temporary visitor centre in Williston.

The Municipality was represented by Mayor Verushka Wentzel, the municipal manager Gustav Von Mollendorf and several other members of the Municipal Council.
SKA SA was represented by several staff members delivering presentations to the members of the Municipality, which included Kim de Boer, Tracy Cheetham, Dr Adrian Tiplady, Pontsho Maruping and Dr Anton Binneman.

Through interactions such as this, SKA South Africa continues to build on the positive relationship with local municipalities through collaborations on different levels and affecting all sectors of the local communities around the project. SKA works intensively with the local municipalities as well as the regional municipality, the Office of the Premier and the provincial government.

Meeting with Uniting Reformed Church, Carnarvon

SKA South Africa met with the members of the Uniting Reformed Church in Carnarvon in response to a service held by the Church on 29 January 2017 where strong allegations were made with regards to SKA.

At a meeting held on 17 February 2017 SKA communicated the facts and started discussing a way forward with regards to collaboration and communication between the Church and the SKA. The URC synod assisted the SKA to secure this meeting and will assist in the way forward.

SKA and Agri SA partners for the benefit of local communities

SKA South Africa and Agri SA signed an agreement that commits both organisations to jointly ensure that local communities of the Karoo benefit from the SKA project.

In anticipation of the impacts that the construction of the SKA radio telescope will have on the environment and local communities in the Karoo, SKA South Africa is partnering with civil society organisations to ensure that these impacts remain positive. On the 22nd of February 2017, an agreement was entered into between SKA South Africa and Agri SA.

Currently SKA South Africa is negotiating with landowners to buy 32 portions of land or a total of 118,000 hectares to build the core of the SKA. This will be sufficient land to build the entire core of the SKA radio telescope. Antennas will also be built across three spiral arms that will stretch out from the core. Use of the land for the purpose of establishing the spiral arms will be negotiated by establishing servitude agreements with landowners.

Through this agreement between Agri SA and SKA South Africa, both organisations commit to continuously explore ways where affected agricultural land is optimised to accommodate ongoing farming activities where possible, as long as the functioning of the radio observatory is not compromised.

Through its affiliated membership, Agri SA represents the interests of farmers in South Africa. The expertise of this farming community will assist SKA South Africa to deal with land management challenges such as predator control and the control of alien invasive plants.

The local farming community, including farmworkers, will be affected by the restrictions placed on the use of modern telecommunication devices. The SKA South Africa commits itself to invest in the development of alternate technology that will ensure that the impact is minimised. Through this agreement, frequent needs assessments will be conducted to ensure that these alternative solutions meet the communication needs of the affected communities.

Johannes Möller, the President of Agri SA says: “Agri SA is keen to develop partnerships and this one represents a partnership to develop relations and solutions to farmers and communities in the area.”

The Managing Director of SKA South Africa, Dr Rob Adam says of this agreement: “My vision for the SKA in South Africa is to continue building our relationship with the people living on and close to the SKA site in the Karoo. Various socio-economic studies point to the needs of local people with regard to education, employment and quality of life. It is the responsibility of both SKA South Africa and local farmers to work together to build a sustainable future for this part of the Karoo that we are privileged to work and live in. Through this agreement with Agri SA, the SKA South Africa expresses its commitment to work in partnership with the organised farming sector to ensure that maximum benefit is derived from hosting the SKA radio telescope in the Karoo.”

Community Information Sessions held in Carnarvon and Van Wyksvlei

Telalo Lekalake from SKA SA speaks to community members in Van Wyksvlei.

Nolwazi Mthembu and Melissa Davids of the SKA SA Supply Chain Management Team assisting a community member with information.

SKA South Africa held two Community Information Sessions in Carnarvon and Van Wyksvlei on Monday, 8 and Tuesday, 9 May 2017. SKA South Africa used the opportunity to review the information shared at the previous session in November 2016; provide feedback on the Land Acquisition Process (LAP); provide feedback on the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA); the economic impact of SKA on the area; and to provide feedback on the SKA South Africa Human Capital Development programme. “It is the aim of these sessions for SKA South Africa to provide feedback and afford members of the communities with the opportunity to voice concerns and ask questions,” said Dr Rob Adam, SKA South Africa’s Managing Director.

Prior to the community information sessions, members of the SKA South Africa Supply Chain Management and Commercialisation teams conducted workshops with small businesses within the communities of Carnarvon and Van Wyksvlei. They used the opportunity to provide an outline of the SKA South Africa supply chain processes and policies, an outline of SKA South Africa products and service needs, and provide answers to questions regarding the registration of service providers on the Central Suppliers Database.

IAU and SKA South Africa collaborate to promote science communication in Africa

Students participating in the science communication training workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) Office for Young Astronomers (OYA) and SKA South Africa collaborated to host a science communication training workshop for 30 African postgraduate astronomy students in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 20-21 May 2017. The workshop was an extension of the IAU 2017 International School for Young Astronomer (ISYA), a 2-week school that offered students selected by the IAU OYA the opportunity to broaden their perspectives on astronomy through a series of lectures, practical exercises, observations and exchanges facilitated by an international faculty.

Students participating in the science communication training workshop were introduced to the theory of science engagement, and were required to complete various practical components that transferred basic skills in message strategy, public speaking, science journalism, social media, and science engagement project design.

The workshop, coordinated by the SKA South African Communications Unit, was facilitated by the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) staff, IAU ISYA faculty members, SKA South Africa content specialists and communication staff, and science communicators from East Africa.

“Scientists have a responsibility to communicate the content and value of their research to society, so that citizens are empowered to make informed decisions and hold their leadership accountable about research that affects their daily lives or the future of their country,” says Ann Ng’Endo, an MSc student in astrophysics at the University of Nairobi. She continues by saying: “This workshop provided me with the tools that I need to develop a message about why astronomy and my research is important for the development of Kenya and Africa, and to communicate this clearly to non-scientific audiences.”

SKA South Africa partners with Micron on a Webinar ahead of ISC Show 2017

SKA South Africa partnered with Micron in hosting a Webinar on 13 June 2017 facilitated by Jim Adams, NASA Deputy Chief Technologist (Retired), ahead of the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) 2017 which was held in Frankfurt, Germany. The theme of the Webinar was Deeping our understanding of space: how collaborative research and supercomputing is advancing the boundaries of human knowledge and widening our understanding of the Universe. Speakers included Simon Ratcliffe, SKA South Africa Technical Lead – Scientific Computing; Francois Kapp, SKA South Africa Sub-system Manager: Digital Back-end; Steve Pawlowski, Vice President Computing Solutions, Micron; and Juri Schmidt, Research Associate, Computer Science (openHMC Project) at the University of Heidelberg.

Ratcliffe opened the Webinar by providing an overview of the SKA South Africa’s MeerKAT project, while Kapp spoke about SKA South Africa’s high performance computing needs. Pawlowski’s contribution covered Supercomputing, the Future, and Schmidt gave more insight into the Technological Challenges, Open Sourcing and the openHMC Project.

SKA South Africa hosts SA’s 2016 top matriculants

SKA South Africa hosted South Africa’s 2016 top 20 matriculants in mathematics and physical science at the SKA site at Losberg on 25 June 2017. The visit formed part of a collaboration between SKA South Africa and the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) to host the students on a week-long national astronomy tour.

The students, now all first year students in science, technology and innovation-related fields, were selected by the NSTF to participate in the organisation’s Brilliants Programme. Each student was the 2016 top-performing female or male matriculant in their province, based on their marks in mathematics and physical science in the most recent National Senior Certificate (Grade 12) Examinations.

The NSTF Brilliants visited various other astronomy sites, including the South African Large Telescope (SALT) outside of Sutherland, South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Observatory, and the Iziko Planetarium in Cape Town. The students also received training in basic stargazing in the Karoo, participated in an introduction to Big Data Workshop by Google, and visited various scientific tourism sites on route and in Cape Town.

Dylan Maluleke, a matriculant from Thohoyandou Technical High and now a first-year BSc (Civil Engineering) student at the University of Cape Town, says that the visit to the SKA site changed the way he perceived the value of his degree and career choice. “I now have a clear understanding of how I can use engineering, not only for the better of my country, but also for the better of rural villages like my own. I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but I know that I will make a difference.”

The tour concluded with the prestigious NSTF-South32 Awards Gala Dinner held at Emperor’s Palace, Kempton Park in Gauteng on 29 June 2017. The awards celebrated the 2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and profiled the importance of MeerKAT and SKA for sustainable scientific tourism in South Africa.

Watch the highlights video of the astronomy tour here.

Northern Cape teachers receive robotics training

The teachers programming their robot to move forward until it senses an object less than 5 cm in front of it and should stop. The two-day event was held in the Carnarvon High School hall.

Thirteen teachers from schools in Carnarvon, Vosburg, Loxton, Van Wyksvlei, Williston and Brandvlei participated in the Astemi Robotics Training 1 and 2 Explorer Competition on the 10 and 11 March 2017 at the Carnarvon High School. The first day of the training covered the introduction to robotics which involved understanding the various parts of the EV3 LEGO Mindstorms Set Box. The teachers were also trained on how to connect sensors, motors, and establish these connections using Bluetooth. They were trained on coding and transferring a program and when and how to use each program block.

On the second day, the teachers were trained on how to integrate robotics into the classroom using the Teacher Guide 1: Learn Robotics – EV3 Tasks. The teachers were keen to register for the World Robotics Olympiad and three Grade 10 learners from Carnarvon High School participated in the national finals at the Tshwane University of Technology in 2016. Certificates were issued to all the teachers that participated.

Careers Day – Bandwidth Barn 2017

Aphiwe Hotele from the SKA SA Science Processing Team delivering a presentation to learners from Khayelitsha at the Careers Day held at Bandwidth Barn on Friday, 28 April 2017.

Learners from Khayelitsha at the Careers Day held at Bandwidth Barn on Friday, 28 April 2017.

SKA South Africa participated in Careers Day, which was hosted by and held at Bandwidth Barn in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, on Friday, 28 April 2017. The purpose of the career expo was to expose to and inform learners from Khayelitsha about career opportunities and bursaries available in the STEM industry. SKA South Africa shared information about SKA, radio astronomy, careers and bursary opportunities available at SKA South Africa. While high school learners from Grades 10 to 12 attended, Bandwidth Barn is also a public facility and therefore members of the community also attended the event. SKA South Africa was represented by Aphiwe Hotele from the Science Data Processing Unit and Thobela Baxana from the Digital Back-end Unit, both based in the Cape Town office.

Carnarvon Primary Team takes third place at Virtual Gear Robotics Competition

Dr Rob Adam, SKA SA Managing Director, with the team members of Teen Titans, Chevandré Tieties and Juvandré Andreas and Odwa Magabuko from the SKA SA Schools Outreach team and Carnarvon Primary School Principal, Ms Vanessa Pfeiffer.

A team from Carnarvon Primary School took third place in the Virtual Gear Robotics Competition. Teen Titans, with member Junvandré Andreas and Chivandré Tieties, both in Grade 7, participated in the First Timers category, which is for teams where none of the team members has ever competed in a LEGO robotics competition. This category provides an encouraging and non-threatening environment for learners who are new to robotics. All robot design and competition runs were performed locally and were video recorded. Teen Titans scored an overall total of 262 points, of which 35 points were for trial runs, 42 for the Engineering Design video submitted, 105 points in round one, and 80 points in round two. View the video here.

The Virtual GEAR competition is designed for teams that cannot / do not want to travel to an on-site GEAR competition and broadens participation to an international audience. Robots are designed and tested locally. Teams create and upload videos demonstrating their robot’s’ performance and explaining their engineering design process.

Teen Titans competed against the Young Spanners from Laerskool Wierdapark in Centurion, Gauteng and the Deutsche Schule in Pretoria. These teams took first and second place respectively.

UWC Open Day 2017

Felicia Mmudi, a former SKA SA intern, at the UWC Open Day held on Saturday, 6 May 2017.

SKA South Africa participated in the Open Day 2017 at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) on Saturday, 6 May 2017. The purpose of the event was to engage with learners, students and members of the public, informing them about the courses that the institution offers. This was an opportunity for SKA South Africa to inform these audiences about the project, careers and opportunities available at SKA South Africa and to make informed decisions when choosing their courses.

The SKA South Africa team was represented by Felicia Mmudi who completed her internship with the AVN unit at SKA South Africa in February 2017 and is currently studying at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and Anver Adams, one of the SKA South Africa bursary holders from the Northern Cape studying at UWC.

Siyambonga Matshawule, a former telescope operator at SKA South Africa currently a lecturer at UWC, was also part of the SKA South Africa team at the Open Day. They provided information about astronomy and telescope operation, careers at the SKA, their involvement in the project and their career journeys.

Schools outreach in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN)

Namhla Mabombo, a Junior Systems Engineer in the Digital Backend Unit interacting with learners at the Zululand Festival.

Nkululeko Qwabe, a Software Engineer in the AVN unit with learners at the Zululand Festival.

SKA South Africa conducted an outreach activity at the Siyamukela High School and the ArcelorMittal Science Centre in Newcastle on 22 May 2017, and participated in the Zululand Festival (ZulFest) from 24 to 27 May 2017. SKA South Africa were represented by Namhla Mabonbo, a junior Systems Engineer in the Digital Back-end Unit, and Nkululeko Qwabe, a Software Engineer in the AVN unit, both based in the Cape Town office.

The team gave a presentation to two different groups of science learners at Siyamukela High. The content of the presentation included an overview of the SKA project, the career journey of the SKA representatives, different careers that exist at SKA and career opportunities. The learners received the presentation very well and the educators were very grateful to have SKA talking to the learners about fields that some of them did not know even existed.

After the presentations at Siyamukela High School, the team headed to the Acerlor Mittal Science Centre. The team also conducted workshops with learners from Sipheni Primary School, Mbalenhle Primary School, Bethamoya High School and Ikhwezi High School in Newcastle.

From 24 to 26 May 2017, the team held exhibitions and more workshops with different schools at the University of Zululand Science Centre in Richards Bay, as part of the Zululand Festival. On 27 May 2017 an exhibition was held at the Boardwalk Mall in Richards Bay where the target audience was members of the public.

Eding International Festival in Polokwane

Isabella Rammala, Junior Commissioning Scientist at SKA SA, with learners at the Eding Festival in Polokwane.

SKA South Africa participated in the Eding International Festival, which was held in Polokwane Showgrounds in Limpopo, from 15-19 May 2017. The festival is an annual event, which aims to showcase cutting edge innovation in the field of science, technology, engineering and innovation (STEMI) fields in South Africa, to provide career guidance and share some of the country’s success stories in these fields with learners. It also aims to inspire and motivate learners to select careers in these fields. The event is supported by the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA).

The SKA South Africa was represented by Isabella Rammala, a Junior Commissioning Scientist and Mpho Mphego, a Correlator-Beamformer at the SKA South Africa offices in Cape Town. The role of the representatives at the festival was to do an exhibition, fun activities at the exhibition and provide presentations. The audience consisted of mostly learners and teachers from Polokwane, and some members of the public.

Career Awareness Day in Mamelodi, Pretoria

Thobela Baxana, a Test Engineer in the Digital Backend Unit at SKA SA in Cape Town interacting with learners at the Career Awareness Day in Mamelodi.

SKA South Africa and HartRAO participated in Career Awareness Day, which took place in Mamelodi West in Pretoria on 27 May 2017. The event was organised by and held at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Africa. The Career Awareness Day is an annual event, which is led by the Young Adults League of the church, and it has been running since 2008. The purpose of the event was to give career guidance to members of the youth in and around Mamelodi.

Thobela Baxana, a Test Engineer in the Digital Back-end Unit at SKA South Africa in Cape Town, and Tony Dhlamini, a Science Communicator at HartRAO presented to the audience. There were a number of other organisations participating in the event and each organisation was given 10 minutes to speak about their organisation and careers in its respective industries. Baxana provided basic information on SKA and HartRAO, and information on careers and career opportunities in these two organisations.

The audience consisted of Grade 8 to 12 learners, first year students, members of the community and church congregants from Mamelodi and surrounding areas. The learners were very interested in careers in astronomy.

SKA South Africa participates in Expo 2017 being held in Astana, Kazakhstan

The Africa Plaza at Expo 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Ambassador KST Matthews with Ambassadors from other African countries at the opening of the Africa Plaza at Expo 2017.

SKA South Africa represents that Department of Science and Technology (DST) and South Africa at Expo 2017, currently underway in Astana, Kazakhstan until 10 September 2017. Expo 2017, which kicked off on 10 June 2017, showcases 115 countries and 22 international organisations participating. While the theme of the Expo is Energy of the Future the expo presents an ideal opportunity to promote South Africa and the African continent’s involvement in SKA.

It is expected that 2 million tourists will visit the exhibition and a total number of visitors will be about 5 million. It is planned that 85% of the total number of visitors will be citizens of Kazakhstan, and 15% – foreign nationals, mostly of which will come from the CIS countries and China. A significant number of tourists is also expected to arrive from Europe, Turkey and the United States.

The South African stand is located in the Africa Plaza, with neighbouring stands from 22 African countries. SKA South Africa partners with the DST and the South African Embassy in Kazakhstan in managing the exhibition stand to profile the SKA and South Africa on an international platform.

Other aspects of the exhibition include profiling the Northern Cape as a tourist destination, with focus on the San Culture. Tyrone van Balla, an Electronic Engineer in the Digital Back-end Team of SKA South Africa, joined an SKA South Africa delegation attending the opening week at Expo 2017. “The experience to travel to Kazakhstan and attend Expo 2017 was phenomenal. My participation in Expo 2017 was to engage with the visitors on the SKA and our work in South Africa, which was an enriching interaction,” says Van Balla.

The Africa Plaza at Expo 2017 was officially opened on Monday, 12 June 2017 by the South African Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Her Excellency KST Matthews and Ambassadors from other African countries, including Kenya, Morocco, Benin, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, the Gambia, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Comoros, Lesotho, Liberia and Madagascar.

Ambassador Matthews has been appointed as the South Africa Commissioner at Expo 2017 and leads the South Africa presence at the Expo. “This Expo will go a long way for cross-pollination of knowledge exchange, information and friendship to ease the path for future energy,” said Ambassador Matthews.

Anita Loots, SKA SA Head: Office for Africa Planning in the Office of the Managing Director, visited Expo 2017 as part of the National Day celebrations held on 18 July 2017. Loots expanded on the Africa VLBI Network and the soon-to-be-launched Ghana radio telescope in Kutunse.

SKA South Africa led the Mandela Day commemorations at the South African National Day celebrations on Tuesday, 18 July 2017 at Expo 2017, currently underway in Astana, Kazakhstan. SKA South Africa featured the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) as part of the National Day celebrations, sharing information about the network of VLBI-capable radio telescopes on the African continent. The first of these to be launched will be the converted antenna in Kutunse in Ghana on the 24th of August 2017.

SA Agulhas II Open Day

Mariet Venter from SKA SA (left) and Marion West from HartRAO (right) interacts with learners and members of the public at the SA Agulhas II Open Day held in Cape Town on 23 and 24 June 2017.

HartRAO and SKA South Africa exhibited at the SA Agulhas II Open Day, which was held at the East Pier Quay, V&A Waterfront in Cape Town on 23-24 June 2017. The SA Agulhas II is a state-of-the-art polar research and supply vessel, and plays a fundamental role in support of the country’s involvement in Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic Islands, carrying out research of national interest in the Southern Ocean. The Open Day gives the public an opportunity to explore the ship and the Department of Environmental Affairs’ work in the oceans and coastal environment. Visitors to the Open Day went on a guided tour of the vessel and enjoyed exhibitions and displays by different exhibitors, including HartRAO and SKA South Africa’s exhibition.

The team members that participated at the exhibition were Prof Ludwig Combrinck and Marion West from HartRAO. SKA South Africa was represented by Mariet Venter, Mpho Mphego and Anele Nzama. The team interacted with thousands of learners and members of the public who came to see the ship and to learn about different research programmes performed by South Africans on the islands.

ASSET Mathematics and Science Holiday Programme

Top: Learners attending the holiday programme at the Cape Town Science Centre. Bottom: Lerato Sebokolodi and Isaac Sihlangu from SKA SA interact with learners during the holiday programme at the Cape Town Science Centre during July 2017.

SKA South Africa content specialists Audrey Dikgale, Lerato Sebokolodi, Isaak Sihlangu, Vereese van Tonder and Namhla Mabombo participated in workshops and presentations for Grade 8 and Grade 9 learners at the Cape Town Science Centre on 5 and 11 July 2017. The learners were part of a holiday programme administered by ASSET in partnership with Living Maths and the Cape Town Science Centre. In the programme, the learners are exposed to mathematics and science in interactive and practical ways. The SKA South Africa team delivered a 1-hour motivational and career guidance talk; and a workshop for three different groups.


Report provided by SKA SA