France supports "Science across cultures" : SciFest Africa 2011
In celebration of a fifteen year partnership with SciFest Africa, the French Embassy presented three events at the 2011 edition of the national science festival which was held in Grahamstown from 4 – 10 May. The festival, aptly themed “Science across cultures” highlighted the importance of science and technology (S&T) in our daily lives by addressing questions about the similarities as well as the differences between human beings.
Launched in 1997, SciFest Africa aims to promote a scientific culture among the youth. By facilitating public awareness of S&T, the festival showcases the appeal of science, technology, engineering and mathematics as viable and rewarding career paths. As the first festival of its kind on the African continent, SciFest makes science accessible to “ordinary” people by allowing them the opportunity to discover science in a safe, fun and stimulating environment.
Speaking at the official inauguration of “Science across cultures”, the French Ambassador, Mr Jacques Lapouge, remarked that “new ideas will be born from the minds of today’s youth and, if we invest in the development of the youth’s potential, these dreams will become tomorrow’s reality”. The Ambassador reinforced the practical, hands-on, trial-and-error approach preferred by French science educators and reiterated France’s commitment to the South African government’s efforts to transform the South African public into a knowledge-based society.
“Science across cultures” focused primarily on two aspects related to science education :
teaching the teacher; and
making use of everyday materials found in the direct environment, thus rendering science and innovation accessible to all.
The three events sponsored by the French Embassy departed from this maxim and encompassed a variety of fun-filled activities aimed at ensuring sustained education by equipping science teachers with the relevant skills to transfer to students in the classroom.
French engineering expert, Christophe Scicluna, returned to SciFest Africa where he presided over micro-rockets workshops where participants had the opportunity to assemble and launch their very own micro-rockets. These workshops were presented in collaboration with teachers from the Jules Verne French school.
A special project that made its debut at “Science across cultures”, was the Afrobot Robotics Tournament, which offered amateur robotics enthusiasts from all over the world the opportunity to make use of basic electronic components and everyday, household materials to build robots with which they could then participate in the tournament. The actual competition was preceded by a series of daily workshops where teams were given the chance to test and improve their robots before competing in the tournament on the 7th of May.
In the spirit of “Science across cultures”, Professor José Braga from the Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, France, presented a lecture on the computer reconstruction of virtual fossils, exploring modern techniques employed by palaeontologists. The fossils were sourced from both France and South Africa and provided interesting insights into the similarities between these fossils.
For more information regarding scientific cooperation between France and South Africa, please contact Vincent Baron, Attaché for Science and Technology : Tel – 012 425 1710; Email - email@example.com