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University of the Free State’s (UFS) Senior Lecturer Dr Jacques Maritz and Head of Department in Engineering Sciences Mr Louis Lagrange, made the long journey to the USA in October to evaluate the alignment of South Africa’s Green Economy with other countries at the World Energy Engineering Congress (WEEC) conference.
“It also gave us an opportunity to grasp internationally recognised concepts, ideas and actions that will enable the South African Green Economy to act as a sustainable development path based on addressing the interdependence between economic growth, social protection and the natural ecosystem,” says Dr Maritz.
“With South Africa and most parts of the world steering towards a green economy to address issues of declining natural resources and other environmental, economic and social ills, this partnership between the merSETA and the UFS is a much-needed response to a call for a concerted action between government, the private sector and civil society,” says Dr Maritz .
He points out that in particular, the university’s participation in the conference will benefit from the U-teach and Green Index projects, which the university established in 2017 with funding from the merSETA.
The U-teach project has a mandate to train 600 Mathematics, Science and Life Orientation educators from high schools in the Free State on the new technologies found in the Green Economy so that they are be able to feed this information onto their learners.
The Green Building Index project, explains Dr Maritz, is more research driven, focusing on energy awareness campaigns. He says the project has created a platform which not only educates people about the importance of energy efficiency, but also allows for public engagement and participation.
“The success of both projects will be determined by getting industry and all stakeholders on-board, so as to ensure the projects we work on as a university are aligned with industry needs,” says Dr Maritz.
He continues: “What we found to be of great importance at the conference was the impact that collaborations between local manufacturing groups have on the success of their Green Economy initiatives”.
“There is a need for building strong relationships between industry and universities. With the merSETA funding projects such as these, an information highway between the two groups can be established, which ensures that we are able to complement one another,” he says.
As a senior lecturer and project manager of both projects, Dr Maritz says the UFS trains a new era of hybrid engineering students.
“We train students on physics and complement it with engineering subjects. We need to get young people excited about studying these subjects. Studying Maths and Physics is like learning a new language – if you practice enough, you will see results,” he says.
Dr Maritz has a PhD degree in Astrophysics, MSc degree in Physics, Honours degree in Physics and a BSc in Physics.