Plett & Knysna learners win at Eskom eta Awards

Educators throughout South Africa are encouraged to enter their learners into the Young Designers Group category of the Eskom eta Awards. If your learners know a thing or two about energy efficiency, don’t hesitate to enter them into this year’s eta Awards, and they could win R30 000!

Since its inception in 1985, Eskom’s eta Awards have been invaluable in the promotion of excellence in energy efficiency. The awards are divided into eight categories: Innovation, Commercial, Industrial, Residential, Energy Saving in Households, Energy Efficiency Awareness, Community, and the Young Designers category. The aim of the Young Designers category is to encourage youngsters to use their knowledge of science to address South Africa’s energy challenges.

In 2012, judges were wowed by the efforts of two teams in the Young Designers Group category of the eta Awards, who looked at everyday issues in a bid to find sustainable solutions. The winners in this category, a team of young women from Bay College, near Plettenberg Bay, explored different methods of cooking to establish which was the most energy efficient. The second team, who scooped a Special Award in the Young Designers Category, explored ways in which to reduce their communities’ consumption of wood. This was undertaken by the learners at Brackenhill EK Primary School, in a bid to help their community be less reliant on the fast depleting indigenous forests in their area – which they use for heating and cooking purposes.

The Bay College team compared three common cooking methods: microwave, stovetop and slow cooking devices. Their research went beyond looking at which method was the most electrically efficient – but also looked at which method would be the most affordable and which would provide the most nutritional value.

ay college - Young Designers Group Award Winners
Bay college – Young Designers Group Award Winners

The team’s research revealed the slow cooker to be the best of all three, whereas the electricity-guzzling microwave was revealed to be the least energy efficient. The slow cooker option represented a 71% saving when compared with stovetop cooking, and an 83% saving against microwave cooking.

While also being energy efficient, the slow cooker allows users to safely leave their food unattended while it simmers throughout the day. Food not only comes out more flavoursome, but nutritious as well, as the slow cook method allows water soluble vitamins to be leached into the liquid.

The team also proposed using the ‘Hot Box’ method to make even more of an energy saving. Using a Hot Box for cooking can save you up to 60% of cooking costs. This innovative and environmentally-friendly approach uses two cushions filled with polystyrene that are placed in a box.

Food such as rice, porridge, soups or stews that have been brought to the boil on the stove can be put into the ‘Hot Box’ with the lid on the pot. The cushions keep the heat in and the food continues to cook. The team from Bay College then shared their findings with local organisations, like creches and soup kitchens that cook on a large scale every day, in order to help reduce their energy consumption.

These organisations were thrilled to receive Hot Boxes, generously donated by the Bay College team. The team hopes that by promoting the slow cooking method, more people will become efficient electricity users.

Electrification has yet to become a reality for the small town of Brackenhill, which lies just outside the forest-clad Knysna. As a result, this community depends heavily on precious indigenous wood to meet its energy needs. The community of Brackenhill uses the wood to cook food, heat water and, in the winter months, warm their homes.

Bracken Hill Primary - Young Designers Group Special Award Winners
Bracken Hill Primary – Young Designers Group Special Award Winners

Learners at the Brackenhill EK Primary school, having noticed the impact the community was having on its surrounding flora, investigated how to reduce their wood consumption. The team, with the help of their co-ordinator Sue Donald as well as their families, developed four ideas that could help in reducing the communities’ dependence on wood.

The team focused on different methods of cooking and heating water. By putting their heads together, they developed a solar water heater for their school using black pipe, and used the ingenious ‘Hot Box’ to cook food. They also experimented by cooking in a clay oven that functioned with just a handful of twigs and coal. Finally, they learnt how to make coal out of recycled paper.

By using these four methods, the team found the amount of wood used was drastically reduced, even halved. In addition, the project had other positive spin-offs for the community, such as reducing the time spent gathering wood, preventing the deforestation of the surrounding natural forests, as well as aiding in creating a culture of energy awareness and efficiency in the community of Brackenhill.

Learners plan to improve on their project by continuing to audit wood usage, to potentially reduce wood consumption even further.

Dr Steve Lennon, the Eskom Group Executive of Sustainability, could not be more pleased by the efforts of these two teams. ‘It is so encouraging to see our youth making such environmentally-friendly and socially conscious contributions in their bid to improve energy efficiency. It just shows how changing the world starts with changes in your own home.’

If your learners have a bright idea regarding the efficient use of electricity, like the Bay College girls and learners from Brackenhill EK Primary, don’t hesitate to enter them into this year’s eta Awards.

You can download an entry form and find out more at: You can also follow the Eskom eta Awards on Facebook ( etaAwards) and Twitter (@eta_Awards), and even watch videos of previous winners on YouTube.

Competition entries closes on 2 August.

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