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Soweto scholar wins space essay competition
6 February 2008, News

A 16-year-old scholar at the Sekano-Ntoane Secondary School in Soweto won a laptop computer in an essay competition as part of the International Space Week activities arranged by the South African Amateur Radio Development Trust in cooperation with the SA Radio League (SARL) and SA Amateur Radio Satellite Association (SA AMSAT). Katlego Zabala wrote the winning essay entitled: 'The future of space in support of mankind'.

A 16-year-old scholar at the Sekano-Ntoane Secondary School in Soweto won a laptop computer in an essay competition as part of the International Space Week activities arranged by the South African Amateur Radio Development Trust in cooperation with the SA Radio League (SARL) and SA Amateur Radio Satellite Association (SA AMSAT). Katlego Zabala wrote the winning essay entitled: 'The future of space in support of mankind'.

Katlego and his new laptop, presented to him at the National Amateur Radio Centre in early December
Katlego and his new laptop, presented to him at the National Amateur Radio Centre in early December

He wrote that if one wants to discover the limits, one must go beyond the impossible. "I believe that the future of space is favourable to mankind and all life on earth" His essay can be read on www.amateurradio.org.za/youth.htm.

The competition was arranged to focus on space exploration and the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik by the Russians in 1957. Every learner who submitted an essay was given the opportunity to talk with Mark Shuttleworth and ask questions about his space experiences.

Radio amateurs are very involved in space activity. They have launched over 70 satellites since the space programme began and have regular contact with the International Space Station (ISS). Amongst every crew on the ISS at least one astronaut is licensed as a radio amateur. Often the entire crew is licensed and use amateur radio as a leisure activity during their off-duty time.

Mark Shuttleworth, South Africa's first astronaut, took part in a unique link-up which embraced telephone lines, a tele-bridge and an extensive amateur radio network. Where possible an amateur radio station was set up at the school of a participating student so that others could share in the experience. Where no radio connection could be set up, learners were linked by telephone. Mark spent almost 90 minutes talking to some 30 learners who all agreed it was an experience to be remembered for a long time.

Amateur radio is a unique activity which can involve young people in communication technology and point interested learners to a technology-based tertiary education and future career. In addition it helps a young person to be confident when speaking to other people, even on a world-wide basis.

Katlego, in the conclusion of his essay, wrote: "The only thing standing between man and the benefits held by space is time. In time all will be achieved, it is merely up to us to decide upon whether we continue patiently in the endeavour to become pioneers of the universe."

Katlego lost both parents when he was in primary school and lives with his grandmother and aunt. At 16 he will be writing matric in 2008. He sights are on good marks to get a bursary to study Actuarial Science at UCT.


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