Getting young people seriously interested in science as a career, not just as a fascinating and potentially exciting subject, is top priority this week for the University of the Western Cape’s Science Learning Centre. With National Science Week 2015 in full swing, the Centre has embarked on a Southern Cape roadshow taking in 15 schools.
The campaign will travel to Plettenberg Bay, Knysna, George and Mossel Bay, where schools will be encouraged to implement science clubs and conduct science experiments, exhibitions and related activities.
The university kicked off proceedings by hosting an open lecture for learners and educators from the greater Boland and Cape Flats areas last weekend. The aim: to highlight why science matters and to discuss its importance and accessibility.
In keeping with the theme of this year’s Science Week – “The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies” – speakers at the open lecture dwelt on matters both cosmic and elemental. Professor Ramashwar Bharuthram (eminent Physics Research at UWC and head of the astronomy desk at the Department of Science and Technology), spoke about plasma as the fourth state of matter and Professor Romeel Davé (NRF Research Chair in Cosmology at UWC) elaborated on how we see the Universe today.
Experience at school outreach programmes had shown that students are unaware that science and research can be a career, Professor Davé said. “Today I spoke to students about the Universe, and I also wanted to highlight some of the developments in science happening right here in South Africa. The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is happening right in their backyard, in their lifetime – it is a project that will put South Africa on the map in terms of astronomy. I wanted to convey… that not only is science exciting, but that there are opportunities.”
Science Week provided a sorely needed focus, said Professor Shaheed Hartley, the Director of the Centre. In the context of a shortage of science professionals, it was critical to have such initiatives to encourage young minds to consider the subject as a potential career path, he said.
To read more about the Centre and its outreach programmes, click here.