YOUTH development projects help future leaders march with the times. The Smart Young Mindz Challenge does this for high school pupils in Gauteng.
The challenge is a corporate social investment and responsibility project of Gauteng's economic development vehicle, Blue IQ. It is supported by the Gauteng department of education, Sowetan and the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation.
While encouraging pupils in grades 8 to 10 to take up and excel in mathematics, physical science, engineering, technology and entrepreneurship, challenges have helped heighten awareness of their environment.
Pupils must submit smart business ideas and investigate problems, wants and needs of their communities and generate commercially-viable ideas for products or services that will fill gaps in the market.
Initially, they were asked to visualise the seating, ticketing and transport arrangements for physically challenged individuals during the Fifa 2010 Soccer World Cup. The exercise helped raise pupils' understanding of the plight of the disabled by applying maths, technology, engineering and electronic principles in fathoming solutions.
In the next challenge, they had to choose between developing a slang dictionary, especially for tourists during the soccer tournament and formulating alternative power sources and providing water recycling solutions for residential areas where pollution is a problem.
The dictionary would help tourists to understand local languages and slang. People without electricity and pollution were serious problems and pupils had to apply their minds to these challenges.
District officials, especially subject advisers, play a critical role in ensuring that schools are informed about the competition and encouraged to take part.
As a result communication between schools and the department has improved a great deal, leading to many more schools participating.
A total of 1500 entry forms have been distributed to 15 districts. More than 350 high schools will be targeted.
Project manager Mandy Rutgers said this week: "The numbers have increased enormously since 2007, when 100 schools were targeted and 20000 pupils reached.
In 2008, we targeted 230 schools and reached at least 50000 pupils. In 2009, we went to 350 school and reached about 70000 pupils ."
The prize money has also been hiked. In 2007 the top three schools shared R60000, in 2008, R100 000 and last year, R112000.
lTo enter, go to www.sym.co.za; www.blueiq.co.za; www.gautengonline.gov.za or call Blue IQ on 011-689-1600.For articles, visit www.sowetan.co.za