Richards Bay – The Department of Science and Technology (DST) and automobile manufacturer BMW South Africa, have collaborated in an initiative to further promote science and technology in the country.
Committed to enhancing young people’s access to science, maths, engineering and technology, BMW South Africa and the DST have donated a BMW 3 Series educational display car to the Unizul Science Centre in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal.
The handover of the third BMW 3 Series educational display car took place at a ceremony at the Unizul Science Centre on Wednesday, 4 September, where the Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, Adv Michael Masutha, gave an address.
In his address the Deputy Minister pointed out that science centres are defined as places that emphasise hands-on informal learning of science and technology through interactive exhibits that encourage visitors to experiment and explore science.
BMW South Africa has so far donated these educational display cars to three science centres in the country that are aligned to and supported by the DST, namely the Cape Town Science Centre (Western Cape) and Vuwani Science Centre (Limpopo). The Unizul is the third to receive this educational car. The Mafikeng Science Centre in the North West and the Osizweni Discovery Centre in Mpumalanga are next in line.
Deputy Minister Masutha said youth development was not only important to the Department, but also to the country as a whole.
“The Department of Science and Technology recognises the constructive role of science centres in advancing science, engineering and technology human capital development objectives. In this regard, you may be aware that the Department has identified science centres as infrastructure through which to deliver our Youth into Science Strategy. This strategy is part of the broader initiative to build and transform the country’s science and technology human capital,” said the Deputy Minister.
Advocate Masutha acknowledged the collaboration between BMW South Africa and government, encouraging more private companies to support the country’s network of science centres.
He told attending learners that the vehicle boasted various technologies, which were all inspired by science, research and innovation. Thus the vehicle should inspire them with hope and energy to excel in their studies, to become innovators of note in future.
The BMW 3 Series educational display cars were built in the pre-production stage of the new BMW3 Series at Plant Rosslyn, Pretoria in early 2012. As pre-production vehicles, they are not allowed to be registered and would have been scrapped. However BMW have put these assets to better use.
“In addition to identifying homes for these educational cars, BMW South Africa as a highly innovative company, has played a meaningful role in the development of maths and science competency in under-privileged schools for the past 20 years,” said Esther Langa, Manager: Corporate Affairs for BMW South Africa.
“Through our Maths, Science and Technology Excellence (MST) Project we have been able to deploy mobile laboratories, known as BMW Centres of Excellence, to 42 participating schools that serve historically disadvantaged communities. As a result, more than 40 000 learners and 148 teachers are direct beneficiaries of this Project, which delivers maths and science pass rates around 20% higher than the national average,” said Langa.
“The donation of the BMW 3 Series educational cars was a natural extension to our commitment in this space in terms of reducing the knowledge gap in the critical areas of maths, science and technology,” says Langa. “Automobile technology makes maths and science tangible and competency in these subjects aspirational.”
Director of the centre, Derek Fish said the BMW 3 series would join with an already existing BMW display that had proven to be a prominent and interactive exhibit over the years and this new addition would be highly welcomed by the learners that visit the centre.
“This is a something that is certainly relatable to the rural students that visit our centre, more so than a plane or space rocket may be. It is an exhibit that allows all areas of science that the students encounter within the curriculum to be explored,” said Fish.
The Unizul Science Centre is one of the oldest and biggest science centres in the country. It was established in 1982 at University of Zululand’s Physics Department where it was initially housed in an old laboratory on the top floor of the Zoology Building. Through funding from both the DST and local industries, the facility now boasts 2 600 square metres, with a dedicated exhibit area of 1 600 square metres, a state of the art auditorium, a smaller theatre, a lab and two classrooms.