A 17-year-old Hout Bay High School pupil is the toast of his school after winning a bronze medal in the regional Eskom Expo for Young Scientists competition.
Clarence Daniels’s project on the effect of PH levels on phytoplankton captured the imagination of the judges at UCT on Friday August 11, earning him a medal, certificate and 10 thermometers for his school’s science department.
More than 700 children from around Cape Town participated in the 35-year-old event.
“My hypothesis was that the ocean is acidic and is having a negative effect on phytoplankton. I read books on oceanography and searched the internet for information, and then conducted tests in a laboratory at UCT to prove my hypothesis,” Clarence, a Grade 11 pupil, said.
While he was not surprised that he was able to prove his theory, he was overwhelmed that he managed to win an award in such a prestigious competition.
“I was amazed that I got this prize because there were so many projects,” he said.
Clarence’s development as a young scientists has been aided in no small part by the involvement at the school of the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), which has organised environmental excursions and invested in programmes to improve pupils’ performances in subjects like science.
Clarence and science teacher Naomi Julius were granted the opportunity to go on board the SA Agulhas training ship to collect and analyse marine samples.
“I like chemistry because magic happens. I am especially interested in marine science.
In Grade 9, we went on a science camp and talked about abalone, and that interested me. The ocean produces a lot of our oxygen, and I wanted to find out more about that, which is how I eventually learnt about phytoplankton,” Clarence said.
Ms Julius added that because the Hangberg community was dependent on the sea, people needed to be more aware of how they treated it.
The teacher said Clarence not only wanted to succeed himself, but wanted to be an inspiration to younger children so that they might also pursue scientific endeavours.
His bronze-medal placing has had another spin-off, in that he has been invited to submit a proposal to take a marine course at the Two Oceans Aquarium during the December school holidays – something he would definitely be doing.
“Once I have completed school, I want to study chemical oceanography either at UCT or CPUT. Then I would like to make a career out of it. But one day I would like to come back to Hangberg and teach oceanography to Grade 11 and 12 pupils at Hout Bay High School.”
He paid tribute to Ms Julius, saying she gave pupils a very good understanding of the sciences, and that she had a real love for them. Hout Bay High principal Juan Julius congratulated Clarence, Ms Julius and SAEON for the pupil’s achievement.
“My big wish is that our learners will look at this achievement and see what can happen when effort is put in, and then they can join the club to success.
“Our school has a lot of extra programmes to offer, and we want pupils and teachers to take part in them,” he said.