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The South African National Roads Agency SOC Ltd (Sanral), in conjunction with Unity in Africa Foundation’s Incubating Great Engineering Minds (iGEMs), hosted its third annual bridge building competition during the July school holidays. The competition was one of a series of workshops, site visits and projects arranged for iGEMs learners, intended to expose them to the opportunities in engineering.

Based on the format and rules on the South African Institution of Civil Engineering’s (SAICE) bridge building competition, learners had to design and then build model bridges using only wooden sticks, rope and glue in a limited time frame. They had to follow functional specifications and construction methods, with the bridges being judged on aesthetics, weight and structural strength.

Bridge building competition introduces the youth to engineering

Held at Sanral Southern Region’s Road Materials Testing Lab in Struandale, the competition saw 34 Grade 11 and 12 pupils from disadvantaged and socio-economic vulnerable backgrounds from 18 schools in Nelson Mandela Bay participating. This is one of a number of initiatives on the part of Sanral to entice youth into the engineering field.

“Engineering is a high-level scarce skill in the country. If we don’t investment in creating talent pipelines from high-school and university for the future, we face the risk of not having engineers building and maintaining South Africa’s national road network,” Mbulelo Peterson, Sanral Southern Region Manager told the workshop attendees.

“We take an integrated approach to the development of South African youth for future roles and careers in engineering. We begin with initiatives like today’s iGEMS programme which supports the development of youth in high schools. In addition to this, we offer scholarships and a Maths / Science programme for high school learners. When high school learners enrol for formal studies, Sanral offers bursary options. Once students have graduated, we provide on the through a structured and formal graduate training centre which provides real world road engineering experience.”

In the past financial year, Sanral awarded 180 bursaries at school level and 300 scholarships for engineering-related studies at a tertiary level. The parastatal will be host an induction event for the scholarships and bursaries that will be awarded to pupils in the Eastern Cape in August.

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