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Solar power energises Stellenbosch’s bright minds

Written by Daniel Bugan

Learners from underprivileged schools in Stellenbosch were equipped with the necessary skills to build their own portable, solar powered USB phone chargers at a recent solar generation workshop presented by Stellenbosch University (SU).

Learners participate in a solar generation workshop in Stellenbosch.About 20 top maths and science learners from Cloetesville and Kayamandi High Schools attended the workshop.

Hosted by SU’s Department of Business Management, the Faculty of Engineering and its Science, Technology Electronics Programme (SUNSTEP), the workshop formed part of the university’s social impact outreach initiatives.

Learners were also taught how to manufacture solar panels; learnt new skills such as soldering, wiring and cutting; and discovered how solar energy works and the benefits it can bring to a community.

“Learners were able to distinguish between renewable and non-renewable resources by the end of the workshop.

“They were so inspired by everything they were taught that they have started to enquire about available courses in information technology and computer science,” says Luyanda Mankayi, a maths teacher at Kayamandi High School.

For Jayden Loggerenberg (17), a Grade 11 learner at Cloetesville High School, the workshop was an eye-opening experience.

“I was surprised that something like this was available to me and that I could participate in it. I’m glad I came to this workshop. I learnt a lot,” he says.

Adolph Neethling, a lecturer at the SU's Department of Business Management, says the workshop came about after learners attending its Young Entrepreneurs Project (YEP) identified a business opportunity for solar energy-driven cell phone chargers.

However, the learners had not yet identified how to access such chargers.

YEP is an annual entrepreneurship programme presented by the department in collaboration with Hogeschool Utrecht, the University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.

SUNSTEP, an entity of SU since 1997, provided electronic kits, tools and practical training to learners during the workshop.

Miranda Myburgh, the Executive Director of SUNSTEP, says: “This workshop meets a critical need in our largely theory-based education system, which provides virtually no hands-on learning in disadvantaged schools, and in which many teachers are greatly inexperienced.”

Plans are underway for more workshops to provide learners from other schools with the opportunity to develop these skills.

Interested schools can email Neethling at acn@sun.ac.za