AFRICANGLOBE – Scifest Africa, South Africa’s national science festival, will lift off in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape on 12 March under the theme “Into the space!”, the Department of Science and Technology announced last week.
The festival, the largest of its kind on the continent, will offer visitors over 500 events exploring spaces big and small, including the human brain, the atmosphere and the universe via architecture, astronomy, biotechnology and nanotechnology.
Scifest Africa director Anja Fourie said the theme was selected in support of celebrations to mark the installation of the first of 64 radio telescope dishes that will make up the MeerKAT, South Africa’s precursor to the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope.
“South Africa’s geographical advantages, infrastructure and human capital have allowed our country to become a place of major significance in the practice of astronomy and space sciences,” said Fourie, “and we look forward to showing off African astronomy and space sciences at the festival”.
A highlight of the festival will be a guest appearance by National Geographic Emerging Explorer Barrington Irving Jr from the United States, the youngest person as well and the first Black person to fly solo around the world.
From humble beginnings in Miami’s inner city, Irving turned down a full football scholarship to the University of Florida to complete a degree in aeronautical science at the Florida Memorial University, where he also earned his private, commercial pilot, and certified flight instructor licences. In 2005 Barrington founded a non-profit company, Experience Aviation Inc, which introduces young people to careers in aviation and aerospace.
Three parallel festivals will run during Scifest Africa 2014, namely the iRhini Township Festival, Scikids, and Scifest Africa @ Nelson Mandela Bay Science Centre, Uitenhage.
The programme includes popular favourites such as the DST Laser Show, Kids Dig and Rhodes University Green Fund Run and Soap Box Derby, but also features several new events, including a Paper Aeroplane Competition, Science in the Park, and Science Slam, sponsored by the German Embassy in South Africa.