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Bridge building and boffins!

Maths boffins

24 May 2012 – Aurecon is supporting high school maths and science contests, including the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Mathematics Competition and the Aurecon Bridge Building Competition held in Australia and New Zealand as part of its commitment to corporate social responsibility.

Paul Hardy, Aurecon’s CEO said, “Aurecon is investing in the education of future engineers and leaders.  We know that fun events such as these drive student interest and uptake of science and engineering courses.  And our people get a lot of satisfaction in being involved with such community events.”

Largest maths event in South Africa

Aurecon is sponsoring the UCT Mathematics Competition, an annual contest for schools in the Western Cape province of South Africa, held at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

The competition began in 1977 as a school-based event, organised by local teachers, which sees high school learners write multiple-choice maths papers as individuals or in pairs to attain top honours in this prestigious contest. The event is the largest of its kind in South Africa.

This year’s competition took place on the evening of Monday 16 April, with a record entry of 7251 entrants from 150 Western Cape schools. Young maths boffins wrote in 63 venues across the UCT campus, under the supervision of 240 teachers. Separate papers for learners in Grades 8 to 12 were set by a committee of maths teachers and UCT lecturers. The questions are designed to test insight, problem-solving and lateral thinking, as opposed to most school examinations that largely consist of routine maths exercises.

"Full marks in the UCT Mathematics Competition are a rare event," said Emeritus Professor John Webb of the UCT Mathematics Department. "The UCT Maths Competition has proved to be an excellent way of uncovering mathematical potential in our high schools."

This uncovering of potential ties in with Aurecon’s brand proposition, ‘Fostering human achievement,’ a goal the group works towards by investing in the education of future leaders. One of the ways in which Aurecon seeks to express its commitment to the accelerated education of black learners is in the enabling of advanced learning opportunities to support young learners in achieving their goals.

Aurecon, annual supporters of the UCT Mathematics Competition, this year contributed towards transportation to the event. The group’s donation was used to cover the bus and taxi costs incurred in transporting 283 participants from Khayelitsha, a partially informal township located on the Cape Flats in the Western Cape.

Over 500 learners from Khayelitsha alone participated in the competition this year – marking a substantial increase in the number of learners from black schools. Thanks to the efforts of the UCT's Schools Development Unit, thirteen of the township’s schools took part in this year's event. Only one of these schools has previously participated in the UCT Maths Competition.

Hannes Kritzinger, Aurecon’s Office Manager, Cape Town, says, “We are especially pleased with the strong participation from Khayelitsha and the role we have played in enabling these learners to participate.”

The marking of the competition has been completed and a total of 162 prize winners will be awarded at an official ceremony to be held on Thursday 7 June 2012.

Aurecon Bridge Building Competition

Aurecon last month launched its 2012 Bridge Building Competition for secondary school students across Australia and New Zealand.

In response to the competition’s increasing popularity, additional events will be held this year in the Northern Territory and Christchurch.

Last year, the event doubled in size with over 1000 students registering for the competition. The winner of the 2011 Trans Tasman prize, first-time entrant King’s College in Auckland, built a bridge out of balsa wood, string, cardboard and glue, which held a massive load of 128kg.

Using materials and guidelines supplied by Aurecon, year 8 and 9 students (year 9 and 10 in New Zealand) design and build model bridges in teams of three.  The bridges will be tested to destruction on ‘judging day’ in August to see which one holds the greatest weight.  The competition will be held in 11 locations in 2012.

Bill Cox, General Manager, Australia and New Zealand, Aurecon says, “By introducing engineering to students in a fun and practical way, we hope to inspire them to consider engineering as a career in the future.”

“With ongoing shortages of technical and engineering skills in Australia and New Zealand, the aim of the bridge building competition is to show students at an early stage, when they can still choose science and maths electives, that these subjects can be enjoyable and challenging,” says Mr Cox.

Schools assemble at designated locations across Australia and New Zealand on ‘judging day’ held from 2-10 August, where the bridges are load-tested to destruction to the cheers of the crowd. Bridge design experts from Aurecon and its clients assess the bridges for workmanship, creativity and visual appeal to determine the overall score.

Entry is free and cash prizes are awarded to schools and students with the highest scoring bridges at each event.

Bryan Sapsworth, a physics teacher at King’s College, said, “The students really enjoy making something with their hands, and beating the Aussies. They have no idea what engineering really is until they see the engineers themselves and talk with them.”

Mr Cox adds, “Supported by industry sponsors, the Aurecon Bridge Building Competition helps to raise awareness of the role of engineering in the community.”

For more information visit the competition website.

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