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AQUALIBRIUM, the SAICE-AECOM Schools Water Competition 2015

During the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Water Week, this exciting competition also went international with both Swaziland and Zimbabwe participating!
Very few interventions or career days have the advantage of practically illustrating what a career is all about. The finals of AQUALIBRIUM, the exciting SAICE-AECOM Schools Water Competition 2015, which were held at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown, Johannesburg, on Friday 31 July 2015, do exactly that! This is an adventure that everybody remembers once they had been there to experience it first-hand!

This competition affords learners the opportunity of designing, constructing and operating a water distribution network exactly the way civil engineering practitioners in local authorities and metros would do. They encounter all the same challenges/problems that occur in real-life situations!

The 2015 winners
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 came to Johannesburg from as far as Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Dendron, East London, Harrismith, Kimberley, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth and Richards Bay. 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 was a first experience of the ‘big city’. Without the naming-rights sponsorship of AECOM, and other sponsors such as Bosch Stemele, Marley Pipe Systems and DPI Plastics, this would not have been possible.
The three winners of 2014 are all currently studying civil engineering, underpinning the value of continuing with these kinds of projects in order to make a difference to the priority scarce skills situation and the lives of many people!

The competition
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. The teams have a period of about an hour in which to design, build 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.
The grid used for the water distribution network is on a background that depicts the entire water cycle. This grid intrigues learners, as well as educators, who find it a very helpful educational tool.
The competition creates awareness regarding the issues surrounding water in South Africa. It spreads the message that water is a precious commodity, which should be recycled, re-used and respected, while the use of water should be reduced. Through this annual competition SAICE and AECOM, the current naming-rights sponsor, take the responsibility of spreading the news that water should be used wisely, that infrastructure should be maintained and that new infrastructure should be developed to provide potable water to all in South Africa.
In two consecutive years (2012/13 and 2013/14) the AQUALIBRIUM initiative had the honour of being chosen as one of four finalists in the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)-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.
AQUALIBRIUM strengthens government’s initiatives aimed at encouraging learners to take Mathematics and Science at school and to follow a career as a science or civil engineering practitioner. Only in this way can we assure that the quality of life of all South Africans will be better in future!

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