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AQUALIBRIUM, the SAICE-AECOM Schools Water Competition 2016

The finals of AQUALIBRIUM, the SAICE Schools Water Competition 2016 will again be held at:


Sci-Bono Discovery Centre
Mirriam Makebe Street


Friday, 29 July 2016

Each branch will organise its own regional competition at a time suitable to them.

Deadline: The regional results have to be finalised by Friday, 24 June 2016 (countrywide schools close on 24 June 2016).

If you are not on board yet, please join us in this amazing competition from which YOU, as well as the learners in your area will benefit tremendously!!

Background information
In 2003 both the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) and Rand Water celebrated a hundred years of existence and as part of their centenary celebrations they launched this water distribution network competition for high school learners, devised by Professor Kobus van Zyl and students from the University of Johannesburg. Since then the competition had been streamlined with a new grid depicting the entire water cycle. It intrigues learners, as well as educators, who find it a very helpful educational tool. It has gained momentum in application, such as team building and demonstrations on ‘technovation’ days!

Water distribution networks
Water distribution systems are important to supply safe and clean drinking water to people. The teams are tasked to design a model water distribution network to distribute three litres of water equally between three points on the grid using two different diameter pipes and connection pieces. They are then judged on how well they execute the task – working on a penalty points system. They have a period of about an hour in which to design, construct and operate their network.

This competition exposes learners to the practical application of processes that influence their daily lives, which is how water gets to their homes. They are made aware of the intricacies involved in the design of water distribution networks and the actual water delivery to households.

As part of the competition the water cycle is explained to the learners as well as issues such as why we have to pay for water, explaining the building of dams, distribution of water through water boards to municipalities and then to users.

As in previous years the SAICE branches through its volunteer civil engineering professional members, came on board and organised successful regional competitions. In the participating branches most of the learners came from disadvantaged schools. Two more SAICE branches participated this year, i.e. Kimberley and Mahikeng.
This competition never ceases to excite the teams, educators and those present.  There were tense moments and moments of utter despair and elation.

The launch of the new streamlined equipment, developed by Professor Kobus van Zyl of the University of Cape Town and ‘creator’ of the water distribution network concept for the competition, saw the curbing of water losses, as experienced by many municipalities in real life, during this competition.

In 2015 Hoërskool Diamantveld from Kimberley came first conceding only 45 penalty points. The team consisted of Frans Jacobs, Lourens van Niekerk and Lohann Burger. In the second place was Merrifield College, represented by Kiam Venter, James Gibson and Dominique Plaatjes, from East London, with 70 penalty points. The third place was taken by Mzilikazi High School from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe with 105 penalty points. Zimbabwe participated for the first time ever. Their team consisted of Anita Dube, Vusumuzi Ngwneya and Freedom Mhondiwa.

Regional winners from South Africa and Africa came to Johannesburg from as far as Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Dendron, East London, Harrismith, Kimberley, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth and Richards Bay, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, to battle the local winners for top honours. Many of the teams were flown to Johannesburg and accommodated in a good hotel - an experience that these young people and some of the educators will never forget! For most, this is a first experience of flying and visiting the ‘big city’.

It is only with the assistance of private sector companies that SAICE can continue this valuable project through which three students were inspired to study civil engineering: at WITS University there are two students, one in his fourth year, and one in his third year, and at UCT there is one student doing his third year. And they all come from the very disadvantaged Phomolong Secondary School in Tembisa.

These young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are determined to go MAD, i.e. Make A Difference in their communities.  We therefore have to go on with these kinds of projects. In order to continue making a difference to the scarce skills situation and the lives of many people!

Apart from being a lot of fun, AQUALIBRIUM as an initiative, had the honour of being chosen as one of four finalists two years in succession in the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) and BHP Billiton Awards, the oldest and most prestigious in South Africa, in the category where an individual or team is recognised for their outstanding contribution to science, engineering, technology and innovation (SETI) through science communication and through creating science awareness. Making it to the NSTF-BHP Billiton Awards as a finalist is an exceptional achievement. The SAICE team comprises Prof Kobus van Zyl from UCT, Marie Ashpole and Fridah Mahlangu from SAICE National Office.

For more information or assistance, please contact
Marie Ashpole
Tel: 011 805 59537; Cell: 082 870 9229; Email:

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