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First German-South African Science Slam in South Africa

Oct 11, 2013

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The innovative concept of a “Science Slam” was first presented to a distinguished audience in Gauteng on October 9, 2013 at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Johannesburg. The event, which took place under the umbrella of the German Weeks 2013, was initiated by the German Embassy and funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). It received additional support from the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre.

The six highly-motivated young scientists from different disciplines who presented their research topics were Elena Antoni and Nora Marie Weyer of Germany and the South African nationals Dr. Heinrich Badenhorst, John Woodland, Dr. Mpfareleni Rejoyce Gavhi and Sandile Ngcobo.

Each of them introduced his or her current research project in a 10-minute “slam” to a heterogeneous audience consisting of 180 high school learners, university students, scientists and media representatives. Furthermore, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, Mr. Tshililo M. Masutha, and the Minister for Economic and Global Affairs of the German Embassy, Mr. Andreas Künne, attended the event and clearly enjoyed the inspiring atmosphere.

The event’s Master of Ceremony, Dr. Gilian Arendse, kept the audience well entertained and demonstrated his own capabilities to bridge the divide between “science” and “society”. The core idea of a science slam is that emerging researchers from various scientific disciplines present their current research topic in a focused, accessible, informative and entertaining way. Their individual performance is assessed and rated by the audience based on a set of criteria which include the scientific content, as well as the communication and performance skills of the individual slammer.

The presented research topics were very diverse, reaching from Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, Mathematical Sciences, Laser Physics and Ecophysiology to the Social Sciences.

In preparation for the event, the slammers received coaching support by two performing arts professionals from the University of the Witwatersrand and the winner of the Science Slam from the closing event of the German-South African Year of Science in Berlin earlier this year. Their input contributed immensely to the great success of the German-South African Science Slam at Sci-Bono.

The mostly young audience decided that Dr. Heinrich Badenhorst, a chemical engineer who is conducting his research at the University of Pretoria’s SARChI Chair in Carbon Materials, delivered the most persuasive slam. He was subsequently declared the winner.

As a special recognition of the efforts all slammers had put into their performances, all of them received a tablet computer as a special prize, which was generously donated by the Department of Science and Technology. Furthermore, all slammers, as well as the coaches and the MC, received gift bags by the German Embassy and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), which also provided an information desk at the venue.

In recent years, the Science Slam concept, which was invented in Germany, has spread all around the world, including China, Russia and Chile. Judging from the audience’s enthusiasm, this event was a great success and will pave the way for many more Science Slams to take place in South Africa.

The CEO of Sci-Bono, David Kramer, Deputy Minister Masutha and Mr. Künne from the German Embassy as well as the six slammers emphasized the significance of this Science Slam and expressed their commitment to support similar initiatives in the future.

Embassy of Germany in South Africa



March 2018






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