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October 2010
In this issue
Innovative new design for SA's MeerKAT
New measurements of radio frequency interference at the proposed South African and Australian SKA sites
Africa unites behind continent's SKA bid
IAU Astronomy Development Office will be in South Africa
Global partnerships to meet SKA demands
Developing skills for the future
SKA Africa boosts maths and science at nearby schools
Northern Cape communities gear up to support Africa's SKA bid
HartRAO 26m radio telescope recommissioned
Houwteq Anechoic Room Facility
Updated branding for SKA Africa
New home for SKA Africa in Cape Town

SKA Africa boosts maths and science at nearby schools

SKA Africa's schools outreach programme aims to change the face of science and mathematics teaching in Carnarvon and Williston - the towns nearest to South Africa's proposed site for the core of the SKA telescope.

"We want to equip maths and science teachers with new knowledge and skills, so that they will feel motivated, confident and inspired about teaching these subjects," explains Daphne Lekgwathi, educational outreach coordinator at SKA Africa. "We also want to supply hands-on resources that will help them move beyond text books and the chalk board." As part of its objectives, the programme aims to increase Grade 11 - 12 enrolments in maths and science, as well as to help learners achieve at least 60% in these subjects.

Undergraduate bursary holders of the SKA South Africa Project visited the KAT-7 site during June 2010 and spent five days talking to and working with local students about science and science careers.

Several public and private sector partners have already come on board.

  • A R750 000 grant from the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) have been used to build and equip a Cyberlab (computer centre) at Carnarvon High School. The lab is equipped with forty-three desktop computers, a laptop, an interactive board and a printer. Software and training have been contributed by Learnthings, Mindset and Microsoft.
  • A R50 000 contribution from Optic 1 was used to purchase equipment for the science lab at Carnarvon High School, as well as the primary schools in Carnarvon and Williston.
  • A new partnership with IBM will provide computers to primary schools in both towns.
  • The US Embassy in Pretoria has donated books to the Carnarvon primary school.
  • Aurora Private School, based in Johannesburg, invited 12 educators from Carnarvon and Williston to take part in an educational exchange programme to share best practices in science and mathematics education.

The new cyberlab and science laboratories will officially be launched early in 2011. The event in Carnarvon will be attended by South Africa's Minister for Science and Technology, Ms Naledi Pandor, the Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms Hazel Jenkins, representatives from the Northern Cape Province and the local community and schools and private sector partners.

SKA bursars working with local communities

Thirty-three undergraduate holders of bursaries from the SKA South Africa Project spent 8 - 13 June 2010 at schools in Carnarvon and Williston, the towns closest to the proposed core site for the SKA in the Karoo. During this week, the students had an opportunity to work with educators and high school students, as well as to visit the telescope site where the MeerKAT precursor array, KAT-7, was nearing completion. In addition to a range of fun science experiments, the students presented motivational talks on their tertiary studies, science careers and astronomy in general. "It was a wonderful opportunity to plough something back into the community," says Emisang Machedi, former SKA bursar who now works at as a research assistant at Rhodes University. "We really connected with the children of Carnarvon and I hope we were able to inspire them about the potential of careers related to astronomy."