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Young scientist tackles illegal electricity connections

Young scientist tackles illegal electricity connections

The issue of illegal connections is a serious challenge for power utility Eskom and municipalities costing the utility and the country millions in lost revenue and increased repair and maintenance costs. But the monetary cost of connecting illegally to the power network is a small one when compared with the deaths and injuries that are caused by these illegal connections.

In fact illegal connections are so rife that they are the leading cause of electricity-related injuries and deaths in South Africa and innocent children are the most common victims as they come into contact with live wires while playing.

In addition to the critical safety requirements that aim to deter and prevent people from making illegal connections to the network, Eskom also runs an annual public safety programme to educate communities about the risk of illegal connections and how to use electricity safely. This programme targets communities and school learners about how to stay safe around electricity and what to do when you encounter a low hanging wire or a criss-crossing electrical wires.

But this year, a possible solution to the problem has come from a learner participating in the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. For over 30 years the Eskom Expo has been cultivating a passion for the sciences by providing participants with exposure to the exciting world of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation (STEMI).

As the country’s largest school-level science fair, learners are encouraged to identify problems in their community and develop possible solutions using the scientific method and young scientist Simfumene Tshona has done just that!

Simfumene, a Grade 11 learner from Nyanga Senior Secondary School in Engcobo, Eastern Cape has created a system that can monitor and detect electricity theft and illegal connections.

Simfumene’s project monitors the link between meter boxes and transformers where illegal connections are often made and directly tackles the point of illegal connection; in order to address this major challenge facing Eskom and municipalities across the country.

“The Eskom Expo for Young Scientists creates a platform for future scientists and engineers across South Africa, to establish a base for their future careers. The competition is a great launch-pad for motivated youngsters keen on exploring these fields and changing not only their circumstances but their environments for the better. It is an ideal catalyst for unearthing the country’s brightest young minds in mathematics and science and also opens their eyes to the various options and many exciting career opportunities available in the extensive scientific world,” says Executive Director of the Eskom Expo, Parthy Chetty.

In recognition of this impressive innovation Simfumene won the award for Eskom Expo Best Female project when she competed at the Mthatha Regional Eskom Expo.

“We see lots of interesting ideas coming out at the Eskom Expo but we are always excited by solutions that directly address the challenges that we face on a daily basis at Eskom. We are always looking for new ideas to stop illegal connections and prevent fatalities and this invention shows great potential as a solution!” said Pieter Pretorius, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Eskom Expo for Young Scientists.

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