SMEC was part of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) Aqualibrium competition. SAICE hosted the one-day competition at SANRAL's Southern Region offices on 17 March to afford learners the opportunity to plan, design, construct and operate a water distribution network, whereby they encounter similar challenges to those that occur when managing the actual water distribution network of a town.

This competition demonstrates the importance of managing water distribution systems, important to supply safe and clean drinking water to people.

It also exposes the learners to the field of civil engineering and provides a glimpse into why civil engineers play a critical part in our infrastructure management. The competing teams were tasked to design a model water distribution network to distribute 3l of water equally between three points on the grid using two different diameter pipes and various connection pieces. They were then judged on how well they executed the task – working on a penalty points system.

The competition creates awareness regarding the issues surrounding water in South Africa. It spreads the message that water is a precious commodity, which should be recycled, reused and respected.

SANRAL Southern Region has become a veteran participant at SciFest Africa, the annual national science festival that takes place in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape.

The festival was launched in 1996 to promote public awareness, understanding and appreciation of science, technology and innovation in South Africa. For the last 12 years, the Southern Region has been part of this initiative.

In addition to the actual festival, which takes place in March each year, SciFest includes regional and national outreach programmes that continue throughout the year. This year, the Southern Region team made information about civil engineering available to young people, highlighting scholarship and bursary opportunities that are available to learners.

Activities focused on explaining the importance of building good roads and educating learners about the meaning of road signs and line markings.

Grade 12 learners also tried their hand at a bricklaying puzzle, using interlocking block pavers and concrete kerbs that are being manufactured by the community members of Whittlesea for road improvements along the R67 in the Eastern Cape.

This project has created 123 work opportunities for unemployed local residents since November 2016 and it is expected to be completed in July 2018.