Two Kingswood Grade 9 pupils have taken first prize in the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists regional levels, with their innovative project on training honey bees to detect substances like rhino horn.
Jamie-Lee Stone and Louise Poole submitted their project called Saving the Rhino: training the honey bee after working to train bees to detect the smell of kudu horn with a reward system in which the bees were given sugar water every time they were smelled the kudu horn.
"We couldnt get our hands on any rhino horn, understandably," said Louise, "and so we used a similar substance like kudu horn for the training."
The bees learnt to associate the smell with the sugar water in about 15 minutes. They are easier and cheaper to transport to border posts, where they could be used to detect smuggled substances like rhino horn.
The girls won a gold medal for their project and were placed first in the top five, which means they each win a scholarship for a years study at Rhodes University. They were also awarded the Environmental Award and the Best Project by Females.
They will now need to present their project at the National Science Expo in Pretoria in October. Jamie-Lee said the idea for their project crystallised after a presentation by wildlife veterinarian William Fowlds to the Kingswood pupils about the Kariega rhinos, Thandi and Themba, and Thandis brave fight to survive the brutal hacking off of her horn by poachers.
They also discussed the use of bees with local bee expert, Dr Garth Cambray. Joining them at the nationals will be other Kingswood pupils who won medals at the Expo - Michaela Walker and Sanel Le Roux, both in Grade 10, who received a silver medal for their project entitled “How clean is your work surface?”.
Also there will be Shannon Andrew and Megan van Niekerk, both in Grade 9 who received a silver medal for their project, on Which side of the face is more expressive?”