SKA SA Outreach Department

First Carnarvon High School Science Week a resounding success

Carnarvon High School continued SKA South Africa’s National Science Week celebrations when the school hosted its first Science Week from 22-26 August 2016.

Educators from Carnarvon Primary School and Carnarvon High School arranged science activities for parents and learners from both schools during this period, led by well-known former mathematics and physical science educator in South Africa, Peter Glover.

Activities included a play about the water cycle featuring Carnarvon Primary School’s Grade 4-6 learners; a “Carnarvon’s Got Talent Show” showcasing indigenous dancing and science-themed hip hop songs; a robotics workshop and mini robotics tournament; a talk and virtual tour of the ATLAS experiment at CERN; general knowledge quiz; science film festival; stargazing; and a visit to the SKA site at Losberg outside of Carnarvon.

NSW at Carnarvon

Grade 4-6 learners from Carnarvon Primary School were the stars of a play about the water cycle produced by educators at the school for Carnarvon’s first National Science Week celebrations from 22-26 August

The programme featured various content specialists, including Professor Tanja Karp, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas Tech University, University; the Inspired towards Science Engineering and Technology (I-SETI) team from UNISA; Heather Gray, a South African particle physicist Steven Goldfarb, an American physicist Giel du Toit, the mathematics advisor in the district.

SKA SA kicks-off Touwsrivier Mathematics and Science Mini Expo

SKA South Africa participated in the second annual Mathematics and Science Mini Expo, hosted by Touwsrivier Primary School’s Mathematics and Science Club, in Touwsrivier, Western Cape from 22-26 August 2016.

The Mini Expo is aimed at creating awareness among the local community on the benefits of mathematics and science in a fun and educational way.

With a partial solar eclipse on 1 September, the team assisted 60 learners from De Kruine Secondary School and 30 learners from the Touwsrivier Primary School Science Club, to build their own cardboard pinhole projectors that could be used to view the eclipse in a safe and affordable manner.

An enthusiastic audience of 150 parents, educators and learners at Touwsrivier Primary School, was also introduced to SKA and MeerKAT, careers in radio astronomy, and bursary opportunities available through SKA South Africa.

Carnarvon High School learners participate in World Robot Olympiad national finals

Three Carnarvon High School Grade 10 learners participated in the national finals of the World Robotics Olympiad at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) on Saturday, 10 September 2016. Team Sharp Shooters from Carnarvon High School, with team members Zainaldo de Bruin, Brandon Sawall, and Marida de Wee, competed.

The team competed in the Senior High category against teams from various other schools around the country, namely Bokgoni Technical Secondary Schools (two teams), Crawford College Lonehill, Ferndale High School, Grantleigh Schools, I-SET (two teams), Redhill High School, a home school team, as well as a private team.

World Robotics Olympiad

(L-R) Zainaldo de Bruin, Brandon Sawall and Marida de Wee, Grade 10 learners from Carnarvon High School, participated in the national finals of the World Robotics Olympiad held at the Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria.

“The team performed extremely well to reach the national level of the competition in their first year of entry,” says Odwa Magabuka, an intern at the SKA South Africa Human Capital Development Programme. “Participation in the Olympiad was also very beneficial to the learners in a variety of ways, from travel from home broadening their horizons, to participation in the event allowing them to bring their experience in the competition back to the Northern Cape.”

SKA South Africa celebrates World Space Week

SKA South Africa collaborated with HartRAO, IAU OAD, NASA, SAAO, various science centres and other science engagement partners in South Africa, to host a programme of public events in support of 2016 World Space Week, which was held from 4-10 October 2016.

SKA South Africa staff participated in a variety of collaborative events in Cape Town, including a motivational lecture at the Cape Town Science Centre, a panel discussion on the First Thursdays American Corner programme, stargazing at the SAAO’s International Observe the Moon Night 2016 event and the hosting of the MEDO Girls in Space Bootcamp Prize-giving.

NASA Deputy Chief Technologist (Retired), Jim Adams also presented a series of public lectures at the Cape Town Science Centre, Naval Hill Planetarium (Bloemfontein), SciBono Discovery Centre (Johannesburg), and SAAO (Cape Town), and shared his experience of big science project management with students at the University of Cape Town’s Space Lab as well as SKA South Africa staff.

MEDO Leaners present to the audience at the SKA South Africa Pinelands offices , Cape Town, SOUTH AFRICA

NASA Deputy Chief Technologist (Ret.), Jim Adams, was the keynote speaker at the MEDO Girls in Space Bootcamp Prize-giving. MEDO is preparing young girls from Cape Town to design and test the payload for South Africa’s first privately owned satellite.

SKA South Africa continued its 2016 World Space Week (WSW) programme when it hosted Adams on an outreach tour of the Northern Cape from 10-14 October 2016. Adams visited Brandvlei Intermediate School, Carnarvon High School and Williston Combined School, where he used actual NASA launch footage, photographs and data to take Grade 7-10 learners on a tour of the planets in our Solar System; create awareness of astronomy, MeerKAT and SKA; and motivate learners to take mathematics and physical science as a subject at school.

The tour also visited Kimberley where Adams presented a lecture to Grade 8-11 high school learners from Kimberley at St Patrick’s Christian Brother’s College, which introduced learners to telescopes around the world that observe across the electromagnetic spectrum, and encouraged them to study science and apply for SKA bursaries.

Adams at Brandvlei

Question time during the SKA Africa WSW outreach tour was always a hit. Here NASA Deputy Chief Technologist (Ret.), Jim Adams, is seen answering questions from a group of female learners from Brandvlei Intermediate School, long after his talk was over.

Adams concluded his tour with a public lecture at the William Humphreys Art Gallery in Kimberley, which demonstrated how astronomy and space science has inspired art, and included breath taking images from NASA’s Earth as Art photographic exhibition and artworks from the SKA Shared Sky art exhibition.

The objectives of the World Space Week programme were to contribute to the public awareness, understanding and appreciation of astronomy and space science by demonstrating how humankind is painting a picture of our Solar System and the Universe using telescopes that observe across the electromagnetic spectrum, as well as how big science is able to contribute to economic, social and environmental development.

SKA South Africa concluded its World Space Week celebrations with a programme of interactive radio astronomy workshops presented at ScopeX Annual Telescope and Astronomy Expo in Johannesburg on Saturday, 15 October 2016.

Retired NASA Deputy Chief Technologist Jim Adams visits SKA South Africa

NASA Deputy Chief Technologist visited the SKA South Africa’s Cape Town office on Friday, 7 October 2016 for a talk titled Five lessons learned from managing big science programmes.

Adams served in NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC from 2012, where he was responsible for the management of technology transfer and the innovation strategy across the entire agency.

Jim Adams NASA Deputy Chief Technologist (Retired) addresses SKA SA Staff at the SKA South Africa Pinelands offices , Cape Town, SOUTH AFRICA

NASA Deputy Chief Technologist (Ret.), Jim Adams, visited SKA SA’s Cape Town office on 7 October to present a talk titledFive lessons learned from managing big science programmes

Spanning a career of 27 years and more than 30 flight missions, Adams said his five lessons are: actively manage your resources; vigilantly hold to your requirements; use the tools that you have (but don’t be afraid to make up new ones); learn from failure, celebrate everything; and that mission success is everyone’s job.

SKA South Africa participates in ScopeX Astronomy and Telescope Expo

SKA South Africa participated in the 2016 ScopeX Astronomy and Telescope Expo, held at the South African Museum of Military History in Johannesburg, on 15 October 2016.

The expo is an annual outreach initiative developed to promote public interest in astronomy, telescope-making, astrophotography and other related disciplines within Southern Africa. It also creates an opportunity for people who have the same interest to meet and share their commonalities.


Visitors to the ScopeX Astronomy and Telescope Expo colour by numbers to learn how SKA SA encodes/decodes data from the MeerKAT dishes.

SKA South Africa was represented by staff members Nikhita Madhanpall and Thabo Nhlapho, who hosted an interactive exhibition and presented the SKA South Africa’s “Colour by Number” and “Make your own spectroscope” workshops to primary and high school learners attending the expo.

The team engaged with the learners on topics such as black holes, the possibility of time travel, the mission to colonise Mars, and the notion of using the SKA telescope to look back in time when the first galaxies were formed. “The event provides a great platform to inform people about astronomy and the SKA,” says Madhanpall. “The event was also extremely valuable to us as SKA staff, as it provides in situ science communication training for SKA content specialists.”

Leading US radio astronomer visits Carnarvon High School

Learners from Carnarvon High School were led on a journey of discovery through the Universe by Professor Eric Wilcots from the University of Madison-Wisconsin (UW Madison), when the American radio astronomer visited the school on Thursday, 17 November 2016.

The interactive talk by Wilcots for Grade 9 and 11 learners at the school, started with a brief history of the discovery of other stars and galaxies; demonstrated the size of our solar system, galaxies; and outlined why MeerKAT will be the most sensitive radio telescope in the world.

Wilcots at Carnarvon

Professor of Astronomy at the University of Madison-Wisconsin (UW Madison), Professor EricWilcots, takes learners from Carnarvon High School on a journey of discovery through the universe, during his visit to the school on 17 November.

Professor Wilcots fielded questions from learners about astronomy and the SKA for more than an hour after the talk.

“I have never had a school learner ask me how we know our galaxy is a spiral galaxy, or whether I think a parallel Universe exists. If this is an indication of the open minds being nurtured in Carnarvon, then the future of astronomy and science in South Africa is bright indeed,” said Wilcots.

Wilcots believes that MeerKAT is well on its way to being a world-class radio astronomy observatory, and cannot wait to use the telescope.

Prof Wilcots is Associate Dean: Natural and Mathematical Sciences and Professor of Astronomy at UW Madison, a member of the LADUMA and MIGHTEE survey teams, serves on the South African Large Telescope (SALT) Board, and makes regular appearances at Scifest Africa, South Africa’s National Science Festival.

Report provided by SKA SA