Meet our September 2016 Educator – Dr Ron BeyersBy Jessica Morgan September 7, 2016 no responses
Name: Dr Ron Beyers
Role: Owner of Young Engineers and Scientists of Africa
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Numbers of years in education: 27 years of teaching, 10 Years of Research
Tell us about yourself and how you got started in education.
I was one of four boys in the family and did not know what I wanted to do when I was at school and hence did not perform academically. I was given the opportunity to do a B.Sc in Biological Science at the University of Natal and went on to complete teaching certificate thereafter, as I managed to secure a bursary from the Education Department.
What grades do you work with and what subject(s) do you teach?
Initially I start out teaching Natural Science to Grade 8 and 9 and Biology to Grades 10-12. I moved to a rural school on promotion and saw the need to introduce Physical Science to Grades 10-12. At the same time there was a shortage of Mathematics teachers for Grades 6 and 7 and was asked to move into these subjects as well. On further promotion we moved to Pretoria where I initiated Technology Education (Design and Technology) for Grades 6-7 and also ended up in Computer Science Grade 10-12.
How did you get introduced to Horizon Educational?
I met Taras Wankewycz at a Clean Energy Conference in Cape Town some 4-5 years ago which led to meeting a number of other key stakeholders in South Africa, including Hydrogen South Africa, Anglo American Platinum, the Platinum Trust of South Africa, the Domba Trust and the University of Johannesburg, amongst others.
Tell us a little bit about your experiences teaching students about renewable energy.
South Africa is faced with a bipolar education system in which the minority received a quality education while the vast majority received a poor quality education relegating them to a life of poverty and little chance of lifting themselves beyond a labour force for local industries. Most schools do not have libraries or laboratories, let alone computer laboratories. The quality of teaching staff is poor allowing the cycle of poverty to be perpetuated even further.
My life journey has taken me from teaching in one of the most expensive private schools in the country and assisting with the development of ICT systems and network at provincial and national to working in high-tech rapid-prototyping environments of FabLabs.
Things changed during my time at the African Institute for Information Communication Technologies, commonly known as the Meraka Institute based at the Council for Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria. I was tasked to set up an organisation that focused on ‘growing children’, specifically engineers. I used this time to research a number of different interventions and turned the results into a PhD entitled “Promoting Human Capital Development through ICT Creativity and Innovation” in 2010.
This led me to be commissioned by AAP to conduct the Cofimvaba Rural Schools Fuel Cell Education Initiative (http://yesa.org.za/cofimvabaschools/) which focused on raising awareness of alternative fuels, especially Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technologies in a school environment as part of a human capital development program. This initiative aimed to promote energy sources especially in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Innovation (STEMI) while supplementing the national curriculum. Customised educational content was developed for delivery through Android tablets. The net outcome was over 4000 learners in 40 deep rural schools.
This led me to develop the concept further in recent months where I am currently involved in the Clean Energy Education initiative (http://yesa.org.za/cleanenergyeducation/ ) with the Platinum Trust of South Africa in partnership with the University of Johannesburg (6 schools in Johannesburg and Pretoria). The major sponsor is the Domba Trust which is targeting 40 schools in 5 separate districts in the Limpopo province. This project has evolved not just into a horizontal number games but also a vertical human capital development program covering three tiers of competitions.
The first level involves the development of a wind powered device using recycled materials to lift a load of up to 1kg through a distance of 1m. The second level involves the use of LEGO donated by Care for Education and the LEGO Foundation together with a Solar Powered kit which charges a capacitor. Teams will have to design and build a Solar Powered car using the LEGO components provided and then race them. The final phase will be the use of Hydrogen Fuels purchased through Horizon where the LEGO will be used once again to produce a hydrogen powered vehicle.
Why do you value hands-on learning?
In all the demonstrations using the Horizon equipment I have encountered individuals with talent, this despite language and even cultural barriers. I am convinced that there is talent out there even in deep rural schools that needs to be stimulated in the first place and then monitored over a period of time before being channelled into the right direction of STEMI related careers.
How has hands-on learning improved your students’ educational experience?
Give the poor learning environments in which most learners are growing up in everything is confined to the two dimensional world of the text book. There is no tangible equipment for learner to interact with. Where possible I encourage learners to assist me in the demonstrations and am convinced that this will be key moments in their lives in years to come. When they experience the hydrogen being produce and the electrolyser converted into a reversible fuel cell one can sense the excitement amongst the learners.
What about working in education brings you the most joy?
A smile on the face and the expectation of a return on investment in the longer term
If you could give one piece of advice to a future educator – what would you say?
Believe in yourself and follow your heart. There are learners out there who need your assistance, your insight and your passion where a little spark at an appropriate time will make the world of difference in their lives.