3 SA pupils first Africans to attend Int’l Space Development Conference

Dene Castle, Chantal Mbala, and Skylar Martin where honoured to be the first people from the African continent to attend the prestigious conference.


Three of South Africa’s STEM Achievers were given the opportunity of a lifetime recently. Thanks to funds from various Rotary clubs, the three young pupils were able to attend the International Space Development Conference in the USA.

Dene Castle a grade 10 pupil, Chantal Mbala, also in grade 10, and Skylar Martin a grade 8 learner, shared their teamwork and well-researched knowledge about spacecraft propulsion with club members and guests on May 30th.

Their presentation included a prototype of their “Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasm Rocket” (VASIMR), which was exhibited at the 37th Annual International Space Development Conference. These talented young pupils are the first conference participants from the continent of Africa!

Thanks to Dr Bettye Walker (STEM Director and Rotarian) and Dr Hildreth “Hal” Walker (Laser Scientist/facilitator), these remarkable STEM Achievers travelled from Cape Town to participate in the conference.

Dr Bettye and Dr Hal promote Science and Technology to students from townships near Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town, and have mentored thousands of students through the A-MAN South Africa Science Center programme they established in 2002.

(Pictured Left to Right are: Dr Bettye Walker, DG Cozette Vergari, Chantal Mbala, Skylar Martin, Dene Castles, President Judy Delavigne, and Dr Hal Walker, President of the Cape Town Space Society, a Chapter of the National Space Society and the first on the African Continent!)


Dr Hal Walker, a laser scientist, was part of the team that put the first man on the moon in 1969. She led the team that shot a pulse of concentrated coherent light towards the moon, aimed at a mirror placed on the lunar surface by Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. This was the first time humankind was able to accurately (within 5m) measure the exact distance between the earth and the moon.

This life-changing trip would not have been possible without the support of Rotary.

Rotary is the world’s premier humanitarian service organisation. Members are all volunteers and commit their time and vocational experience to the upliftment of the communities they are based in. There are currently 191 Rotary Clubs in Southern Africa as well as a large number of Interact clubs (high school students) and Rotaract clubs (members aged 18 – 30).

For more information, you can visit their website at

Sources: Supplied
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Tyler Vivier
Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy. Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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