On 29 July 2023, young scientists gathered at Makhanda to exhibit their remarkable scientific and innovative research projects at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists Fair. NRF-SAEON Kid, Alutha Botha, from Nombulelo Secondary School, won a Gold Medal for his scientific project entitled Exploring Habitat Use by Juvenile Fishes Using Remote Underwater Videos, in the Environmental Science category. Alutha was also awarded a bursary from Rhodes University for his tertiary studies.
Currently in Grade 11, Alutha joined the NRF-SAEON Kids programme in 2020. The NRF-SAEON Kids programme encourages learners to become passionately curious about environmental science and develop innovative environmental science projects that they enter as part of the NRF-SAEON Kids Competition.
He was one of the learners that attended most of NRF-SAEON’s online activities during the lockdown period. It was only in 2022 that Alutha and others joined the first in-person marine science camp after the pandemic where learners were exposed to a variety of scientific processes and skills. By the time they leave the camp, learners have acquired research skills.
A critical thinker, Alutha started asking relevant questions at the camp such as “Would you find more fish in this side of the bay?”. NRF-SAEON’s Elwandle Node science engagement team member, Nozi Hambaze, challenged and encouraged him to answer the questions himself by doing an investigation. As he undertook the research project, Alutha was supported through the use of the Shallow and Marine Coastal Research Infrastructure (SMCRI) equipment and mentored by both NRF-SAIAB and NRF-SAEON staff.