Tag Archives: Education

Space, Science & the Africa2Moon Mission – Schools Presentation

The Foundation for Space Development has embarked on a series of School Presentations to raise awareness of:

  • The importance of Space to our daily lives (economic & societal)
  • The value of incorporating STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics) with a general Space application awareness in any career path.
  • The Africa2Moon Mission & how to participate in Africa’s first ever Space Exploration Programme

If you would like to organize this presentation at your school please complete the booking enquiry form on the Foundations website.

Africa2Moon Phase I Sponsor:


Africa2Moon Phase I Supporters:

FSD ctsc


sac sasa scs

UJ launches Postgraduate School for Engineering Management

ujWith a long history of offering programmes in engineering management, the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (FEBE) has formally launched a Postgraduate School for Engineering Management.

Prof. Jan Harm Pretorius – Head of the Postgraduate School for Engineering Management

The 2012 Infrastructure Sector Research Report indicates: “SA firms in South Africa are reporting a shortage of engineers, engineering managers and project management skills.” Aligned to the requirements of the infrastructure sector and the broader fields of engineering, one finds that the overall demand for engineering managers remains yet to be addressed. Given the long history of engineering management at UJ, and UJ’s vision of becoming an “An international university of choice, anchored in Africa, dynamically shaping the future,” UJ has focused its resources along some of its strengths. One such strength, reflected by the exponential growth in the programme, is its engineering management flagship programme.

The postgraduate programmes of the school caters for part-time and full-time students. A number of part-time students from Johannesburg as well as the broader continent benefit through the after-hours presentation of the programme. The programme is led by Prof Jan-Harm Pretorius, Acting Head: Postgraduate School of Engineering Management, supported by a number of industrial experts. The programme is also supported by positive feedback from its alumni and reflected by the uptake at both the master’s and doctoral level. The master’s programme is offered as a 1:1 combination between course-work and a research project (a mini dissertation). Prof Saurabh Sinha, Executive Dean: FEBE said: “Frequently students align their mini-dissertation work to strengths of those offering the programme, but also to the interest of a given industrial sector. The approach helps to explore, in depth, the shortcomings of a given sector and develop solutions based on best practices world-wide.”

To build the strength of the programme, the school will recruit further international and national expertise. Regarding international expertise: the school has recruited one distinguished professor, supported by three distinguished visiting professors, who together cross-cut various engineering disciplines.

WEBSITE: http://www.uj.ac.za/EN/Faculties/engineering/Schools/PostEngMan/Pages/default.aspx

WATCH: The real Gravity

With the movie Gravity premiering on DSTV101 tonight, 28 December 2014, for African Viewers, we thought it would be a good opportunity to highlight the real issue of Space Debris & the Kessler Syndrome:


Kessler Syndrome
The Kessler syndrome (also called the Kessler effect, collisional cascading or ablation cascade), proposed by the NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler in 1978, is a scenario in which the density of objects in low Earth orbit (LEO) is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade—each collision generating space debris which increases the likelihood of further collisions. One implication is that the distribution of debris in orbit could render space exploration, and even the use of satellites, unfeasible for many generations.
Source: Wikipedia

Bill Maher & Neil deGrasse Tyson On Kessler Syndrome

EDUCATION: Should school maths in (South) Africa be in ICU?

Annual National Assessment 2014 – more of the same…
by Sam Christie, Director of SAILI (saili.org.za)

2014 View

Here we can see the breakdown of performance for all students, by province for maths at grade 9. This will be shocking if you have not seen it before.

Here is the same one from last year and apart from some formatting changes – the view is more or less identical. Was shocking then, and still is now…

2013 View

Then I checked the 2012 version, well apart from flipping the image so that high performance is at the bottom, again the story is the same.

2012 View

In my last post on this subject I wrote the following:

I know a lot of folks have problems with system testing and the ANA’s do have problems (curriculum coverage/moderation marking and increased focus on test prep etc) but in the absence of any better data, we must use what we have or ask if we would rather not know the scale of our problems.

Having read the ANA reports for past couple of years though, I think we now cannot hide from the fact that knowing we have problems, where they are etc does not really seem to help us focus on fixing them.

This statement is what I pulled out of the recommendations and way forward section of the 2014 ANA report – this relates specifically to the grade 9 performance:

“Fast-track support” to underperforming schools? But that must be almost the whole school system if the ANA data is telling us anything.

I have not read the whole report yet, and apparently there are gains in the primary school system, I will have to look at that when I get a chance but what is clear is that High Schools remain extremely weak at maths. We also know that this weakness is not evenly distributed. A small sample of typically high cost schools account for the vast majority of high performance.

For an interactive view of the data, I have updated the live visualisation I put together on the 2013 ANA’s – it can be seen here:

SAILI Analysis of 2013 and 2014 ANA data.

By Jan we will be back to talking about matric – which is a pity as grade 9 in my mind should be the real talking point. Students are all still doing the same subjects – there is no maths lit here, students have not dropped out yet – dropout makes a lot of schools look better at matric than they really are and grade 9 is where students choose their matric subjects.

Enough for now…..

SKA postgraduate bursary conference grows to 90 students in 2014

SKA SA-supported PhD and MSc students, postdoctoral fellows and senior local and international researchers met in Stellenbosch for the ninth SKA SA postgraduate bursary conference, from 4 to 8 December.

At the first postgraduate bursary conference, which took place in 2006, there were less than 50 delegates in attendance, of who only about 15 were students. In 2014, more than 90 postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows gave talks on their research, and 30 more presented their research on posters.

Postgraduate and undergraduate students, postdoctoral fellows, supervisors and invited speakers gathered under the trees at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study for the traditional conference group photograph.

Dr Rick Perley, from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in the US, said he had never been to a conference at which more than 100 talks and posters were presented by students. Dr Perley, a radio astronomer of more than 30 years, was inspired by the enthusiasm and energy of the MeerKAT / SKA community in South Africa, and the significant growth in radio astronomy on the African continent, in such a short time.

At the prize-giving event, which acknowledges the best students’ presentations and posters, Dr. Matt Jarvis, from Oxford University, said that he wished his students in the UK could present talks at the same high standard he had seen at the 2014 postgraduate bursary conference. This is a comment repeated every year by the international guests who attend the conference

The number of young scientists and engineers supported by the project’s capacity development programme is testament to the significant investment by the Department of Science and Technology into astronomy, and their recognition that astronomy can contribute to driving the creation of SET capacity and skills required to enhance any knowledge-based economy.

DID YOU KNOW?: A lunar day is a month on Earth!

A lunar day is the period of time it takes for the Earth’s Moon to complete one full rotation on its axis with respect to the Sun. Equivalently, it is the time it takes the Moon to make one complete orbit around the Earth and come back to the same phase. It is marked from a new moon to the next new moon.

On average, this synodic period lasts 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 3 seconds. Which just so happens to be what we call a synodic month here on Earth.

This is an average figure, since the speed of the Earth-Moon system around the Sun varies slightly over a year, due to the eccentricity of the orbit. The Moon’s own orbit also undergoes a number of periodic variations about its mean value, due to the gravitational perturbations of the Sun.

Types of Months used in Astronomy:

The following types of months are mainly of significance in astronomy, most of them (but not the distinction between sidereal and tropical months) first recognized in Babylonian lunar astronomy.

  1. The sidereal month is defined as the Moon’s orbital period in a non-rotating frame of reference (which on average is equal to its rotation period in the same frame). It is about 27.32166 days (27 days, 7 hours, 43 minutes, 11.6 seconds). The exact duration of the orbital period cannot be easily determined, because the ‘non-rotating frame of reference’ cannot be observed directly. However, it is approximately equal to the time it takes the Moon to pass twice a “fixed” star (different stars give different results because all have proper motions and are not really fixed in position).
  2. A synodic month is the most familiar lunar cycle, defined as the time interval between two consecutive occurrences of a particular phase (such as new moon or full moon) as seen by an observer on Earth. The mean length of the synodic month is 29.53059 days (29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, 2.8 seconds). Due to the eccentric orbit of the lunar orbit around Earth (and to a lesser degree, the Earth’s elliptical orbit around the Sun), the length of a synodic month can vary by up to seven hours.
  3. The tropical month is the average time for the Moon to pass twice through the same equinox point of the sky. It is 27.32158 days, very slightly shorter than the sidereal month (27.32166) days, because of precession of the equinoxes. Unlike the sidereal month, it can be measured precisely.
  4. An anomalistic month is the average time the Moon takes to go from perigee to perigee – the point in the Moon’s orbit when it is closest to Earth. An anomalistic month is about 27.55455 days on average.
  5. The draconic month or nodal month is the period in which the Moon returns to the same node of its orbit; the nodes are the two points where the Moon’s orbit crosses the plane of the Earth’s orbit. Its duration is about 27.21222 days on average.

A synodic month is longer than a sidereal month because the Earth-Moon system is orbiting the Sun in the same direction as the Moon is orbiting the Earth. Therefore, the Sun appears to move with respect to the stars, and it takes about 2.2 days longer for the Moon to return to the same apparent position with respect to the Sun.

An anomalistic month is longer than a sidereal month because the perigee moves in the same direction as the Moon is orbiting the Earth, one revolution in nine years. Therefore, the Moon takes a little longer to return to perigee than to return to the same star.

A draconic month is shorter than a sidereal month because the nodes move in the opposite direction as the Moon is orbiting the Earth, one revolution in 18 years. Therefore, the Moon returns to the same node slightly earlier than it returns to the same star.

Sources: Wikipedia, NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Over 18 million university graduates have left Africa

“One in every nine persons born in Africa with a tertiary diploma lived in the OECD in 2010/11.”

A 2013 study conducted jointly by UN-DESA (United Nations Department of Economic & Social Affairs) and the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development) found that 1 in 9 University graduates born in Africa are now living in the 34 OECD countries. That is a staggering 18.6 million skilled people in those 34 countries alone.

Projects like Africa2Moon & the SKA are vital in not only helping Africa retain its skill-set, but to entice more students to enter into the sciences and to have invaluable collaborations with international experts in these fields.

The long term solution for Africa is education and if we do not redress the imbalance in migration we cannot expect the situation to improve.

A donation to Africa2Moon is a donation towards the long term sustainability of Africa through education.

Download the full study report here: World-Migration-in-Figures

Space & Astronomy Day at the Cape Town Science Centre

Cape Town Science Centre

The Foundation for Space Development played an active role in the recent Space & Astronomy Discovery Day, sponsored by the British High Commission, held at the Cape Town Science Centre on the 25 October 2014.

CEO, Jonathan Weltman, went along and did 2 presentations (one on the 10 most exciting things he thinks are happening in Space right now and one on future Space Careers) and a Q&A Donut session!

Other participants included the SKA & SAASTA and the day was very successful with several hundred kids of all ages coming through to learn about Space & Astronomy.



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