Lehlogonolo Msuma is representing South Africa at the Broadcom Masters (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars) International programme in the US for her research into marula seedlings.
Compiled by Priya Pitamber
A young South African scientist is in the US participating in the Broadcom Masters (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars) International programme.
Thirteen-year-old Lehlogonolo “Nolo” Msuma’s inquiring mind led her to question why there were only old marula trees in her community, in Phalaborwa in Limpopo.
“We only know that big trees are being eaten by elephants, goats, cows and wanted to know [what] the small seedlings of marula were being eaten by; I found out that they were being eaten by rodents,” she told the national broadcaster, the SABC.
“Marula trees, which are seeing a decline worldwide, are important for Nolo’s community because they provide fruit and are home to many birds as well as larger animals,” reads the Broadcom Masters Facebook page.
Nolo is in Los Angeles from 14 to 19 May “for a week of fun and engaging hands-on science and engineering activities”.
Research and findings
Nolo said she found that the Bushbuck gabble and the Namaqua rock rat were eating the marula seedlings daily.
In her project, she outlines various ways in which this can be curbed to allow the trees to grow.
The fruit from the tree is used in many ways in her community: to ferment alcohol, and to make soap and jam.
Nolo would like to become an environmental scientist because she believes South Africa can make positive contributions to global research.
According to the Broadcom Masters International website, each delegate is chosen for “their excellence in science, engineering and leadership”.
“They are rising stars who come together to represent their nations for this international exchange.”
Participants come from Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Puerto Rico and many more countries.
“There is a sense of urgency to inspire more young people to become the scientists and engineers of the future,” said Paula Golden, president of the Broadcom Foundation, speaking about the national leg of the programme in the US.
“Our quality of life depends upon solving the grand challenges in health care, transportation, communication, environmental protection and sustainability.”
Nolo is a Grade 8 pupil at Gerson Ntjie High School and an ambassador for the Bush Babies Environmental Programme.
School principal Vivian Kganyago said she hoped other students would follow in Nolo’s footsteps, despite the school not having a lab in which to work. “I hope Gerson will be known not only provincially, nationally but internationally,” she said.
See Nolo speak ahead of her departure to the US:
Other than an interest in environmental science, she “enjoys reading, writing poetry, singing, and researching the latest fashion trends”, reads the Broadcom Masters Facebook page.
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