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Being Part Of South African Science History

When South Africa won the bid to co-host the Square Kilometer Array project it was described as an achievement for the country and the continent as a whole. It is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, with its hub 80km outside Carnarvon in the Northern Cape.

Members of the small Karoo town were understandably hesitant about the development of this project on their doorstep, but some are already reaping the rewards thereof. One of them is 15-year-old Zainaldo de Bruin who is headed to the National finals of the World Robotics Olympiad later this month.

We met the young science buff when we passed through town ahead of our specially organised visit to the site.

Guillaume and the boys strolled through Carnavorn the night before and found themselves chatting - in broken Afrikaans, no less - to a group of women playing dominoes on the stoep.

When he told the ladies why we were in town, one of them excitedly remarked that her great-grandson would be visiting the site the next day too as a prize for winning a local robotics contest.

Zainaldo was only introduced to robotics last year, when his Physical Science teacher, Itumeleng Molefi, whose appointment at the school was sponsored by the SKA project, encouraged him to join the team. It is, however, not the only robotics competition Zainaldo's won, as his mother, Nicolene, explains when I went back the next day to secure a radio interview with him.

Now, Zainaldo along with two classmates are headed to Pretoria after winning gold in the regional leg of the World Robotics Olympiad in Cape Town last month.

I met this bright teenager after interviewing several farmers elsewhere in the Northern Cape. Amid a crippling drought, several of them were pessimistic about the future and one quite disdainful (to say the least) of his so-called coloured workers, told me in Afrikaans that "they've never used their minds".

Well, meneer, Zainaldo and many others are a shining example that the future of this rainbow nation may be brighter than you think.

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