SALT Educational Empowerment
Growing the Community
The elections that took place on 27 April 1994 ushered in a new era of hope and optimism that South Africa had never before experienced. The expectations for a just, peaceful and prosperous society were abundant throughout the new nation. The government brought into existence by these elections had the unenviable task of addressing many difficult challenges simultaneously in its attempts to meet both its mandate and the expectations of a very impatient new nation. Much has been accomplished in the five-year period that followed the 1994 elections, but a lot more still needs to be done. One of the most important challenges that confronted the nascent democratic government was the requirement to broaden the science, engineering and technology education and training base, particularly in the black community. Various government departments have now put in place policies to meet the challenge. The Southern African Large Telescope project was initiated as an important element in these critical endeavours.
Payoffs: The result of student involvement in all phases of SALT is that the experience of participation in a large, complex, high-technology project will be carried into later careers. Knowledge of the technology, interactions and techniques for development of such projects is vital, as South Africa must address ever more ambitious technical undertakings. To perform such tasks one must first believe that they can be achieved and one must have confidence in using the constituent technologies. Experience with SALT will provide those assurances. There is a growing trend internationally for students trained in astronomy and astrophysics (particularly at graduate level) to be increasingly sought after for employment in business and industry for their analytic and problem-solving skills.