Local head boy wins third place at International Science and Engineering Fair

Curro Durbanville's head boy races to top of American Science Competition. Photo: Supplied/Dashayin Gilbert.

Curro Durbanville’s head boy races to top of American Science Competition. Photo: Supplied/Dashayin Gilbert.

Dashayin Gilbert is rejoicing after winning a category award and $1 000 (about R15 700) in prize money at The Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Atlanta, USA earlier this month.

Competing against more than 1 750 scientists from 63 countries, Curro Durbanville’s head boy, also known as Dash, won third place for his Formula One Aerodynamics project in the physics and astronomy category, under the mechanics subcategory.

Gilbert identified the most critical aerodynamic elements that help Formula One race cars improve lap times on high-speed circuits, and impressed the judges by including sustainable solutions.

His research into elements that contribute to the most drag is valuable to the motor and aviation industry because it helps to reduce carbon emissions.

Before competing in America, Gilbert’s project was chosen by his school to compete in a national, and then an international, science fair held by Eskom.

The top seven projects, including Gilbert’s and one by student Ra’ees de Witt from Curro Hermanus, were chosen to represent South Africa at the world’s largest global high school competition.

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News24 invited Gilbert for an interview to share what the win means to him, and his plans for the future.

The Durban-born teen said he was introduced to Formula One by his dad and that his love for the sport grew during a compulsory school project for physical science students. That passion inspired this prize-winning project, Gilbert said.

“For Formula One fans, the more involved and educated you become in the sport, the more and more exciting it becomes. So, everything I did for the project was enjoyable, and I thoroughly enjoyed the late nights.”

He said:

Aerodynamic research takes up a lot of time. I started in December 2020, but if you’re willing to work, it will always be enjoyable. If I had to name one difficulty, it would be removing the brands from the ads in all the images I included in my project as no branding is allowed at the expo.

“I am proud and honoured to have represented South Africa internationally, and I think the entire South African team is too,” Gilbert said, adding: “I am happy that I am an example to younger students of what can be achieved internationally, and that isn’t even the limit. There are still more awards to be won every year, and this expo served as a way for me to develop my knowledge of Formula One aerodynamics and learn as much as I could”.

What was unique about this project?

Gilbert said his project was the only one that revolved around the motorsport industry, and most of the projects in his category were on astronomy and astrophysics.

He added that there special mention was made of the meticulous handling of the data received and the thorough explanation of his results and implications.

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“The judges were impressed with the level of my understanding of theoretical physics, which applies to aerodynamics,” he said.

This responsible teenager shared that he planned to use his money to pay for next year’s academic expenses.

“I have my full focus on my school work and university applications next year,” Gilbert added.

He also said that up to $75 000 (R1 172 746) in scholarships to universities and tertiary study institutions were handed over to the winners, along with offers of internships and summer research programs.

Gilbert says he plans to pursue a career in Formula One motorsport after completing an engineering degree – which is his first career goal.

“I have been awarded a full scholarship to study at Pretoria University, which I received at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. If I study locally, I will choose to study mechanical engineering.”

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“But if I study internationally, I will instead choose to study aerospace engineering, which focuses more on fluid dynamics. Hopefully, an international scholarship will allow me to fulfil these aspirations,” Gilbert says.

He hopes to be part of the Formula One Team in the motorsport industry in the near future, even if it’s just for an internship.