SANRAL propels young engineering minds in Nelson Mandela Bay

OCTOBER 5, 2016

The South African National Roads Agency SOC Ltd (SANRAL) partnered with Unity in Africa iGEMs and SMEC South Africa in hosting a model bridge building competition in Struandale, New Brighton.

Thirty scholars from 18 high schools around Nelson Mandela Bay who are part of the incubating Great Engineering Minds (iGEMs) programme attended a bridge building competition at the SANRAL Materials testing lab on Monday, 03 October 2016.

This bridge building competition is based on the SAICE Bridge Building Competition hosted at local SAICE branches, nationwide.

The iGEMs programme was launched in 2015. The initiative has four phases and offers various levels of exposure for learners throughout the programme, including development classes, site visits at member companies, computer literacy, etc.

“Our first intake saw 16 students register on the programme and our second intake saw double the number. Our ‘education to employment’ programme offers students a practical understanding of the theory through learnerships at one of our partner companies. Learners who are passionate about engineering are our passion,” said Laurene Booth-Jones, programme co-ordinator.

“The first phase of the programme is Grade 11 and 12 extra classes. During phase two all the learners attend learnerships at one of our member companies. In phase three the student gets enrolled in university. The students get the opportunity to go back and work in one of the member companies in phase four.”

Tronél Candiotes-Strydom, Professional Technologist (Roads and Highways) at SMEC South Africa, also played a vital role in organising the bridge building competition. “We are passionate about learners who are currently disadvantaged. We want to give these learners an opportunity to uplift themselves so that they have a shot at a better future. We just want to make the world a better place, and we are glad we had the opportunity to influence the lives of these learners in a positive way.”

“iGEMs is a very helpful programme. It presents opportunities for us to find ourselves. My self-confidence has improved. I have gained knowledge from the various workshops. I’m very grateful for this competition as it has taught me the difference types of bridges and I can now impress my classmates with what I have learnt,” said Vuyisa Tafane, Grade 11 learner at Alexander Road High School.

For Grade 12 learner Sinethemba Fesi, who is a learner at Ethembeni Enrichment Centre, the highlight was the structural engineering lessons he got from attending the bridge building competition. “It allowed us to think out of the box. We first studied and did calculations that guided us in our structures. This was an amazing opportunity,” he said.

The bridges, constructed using only pine wood, glue and string, had to follow detailed specifications provided by SAICE and were judged according to aesthetics and the weight the bridge was able to withhold before it collapsed. The aim of the competition was to teach the learners about the basic principles of infrastructure engineering.

“There is a need for employable, professional, well-trained engineers. iGEMsS allows the learners that go through the programme to walk away with lifelong knowledge and experience. A Cape Town version of the programme (Go for Gold) has seen one of the program graduates receive a bursary from SANRAL. SANRAL supports youth development and we understand the need for it.

"We are pleased we were afforded the opportunity to host such a programme of stature here at the SANRAL Materials lab,” said Sean Strydom, SANRAL Southern Region Construction Materials, Project Manager. 

Image: STRUCTURED: Ntandokazi Baxana (Ethembeni Enrichment Centre), Lusanda April (Woolhope High School), Enzokuhle Ziyekile (Solomon Mahlangu High School) and Solomzi Sokupa (Woolhope High School) busy with finishing touches to their warren truss bridge.