Project Moya

Last week was the completion of a 12 week long project which I, and the Project Moya team, undertook with Modelling and Digital Sciences (MDS) at the Council for Scientific Industry Research (CSIR). MDS, along with Meraka at the CSIR, hosted around 50 students during the school holidays (July, December and Jan) to apply data science skills to solve real world problems (the DSIDE progromme). The diversity of problems was incredible, from natural language processing to modelling electricity theft to cyber security and furthermore, the diversity of students, from engineering to data science to statistics to mathematics and we even had a journalist and fine art student.

Some of the MDS DSIDE 2017/18 Students.

Project Moya took me on a whirlwind of a ride through the South African wind energy landscape and I would like to share with you some of the interesting things I have found out since, thanks to CSIR MDS, the CSIR Energy Centre and WindAC Conference.

In the inset of this post and below, I have included an infographic, and I want to talk more about what’s happening here.

Wind Energy Infographic.

Figure 1 shows the power density in South Africa at 80m above sea level. This is well within the typical range of large scale wind turbines. The darker areas highlight those which are expected to produce the greatest amount of power. As you may have known, the highest power densities are found in both the Western and Eastern Cape. This corresponds nicely to where most of our wind farms are currently built (see Figure 2). Each of the labels show the renewable energy technologies and you can see clustering of wind (blue labels) in both of these provinces. The numbers on the labels represent the REIPPP bid window. (The REIPPP is a formal framework to assist in the procurement of wind technology in South Africa and has stimulated growth in the wind energy market, however, many of the wind farms in bid windows 3 and 4 are still under construction). The question here is, are the areas in South Africa which have promising quantitative wind resource and are not being fully exploited? A closer look at Figure 1 shows areas of the coast of the Northern Cape and KZN may have potential. That being said, it is important to keep in mind that there may be restrictions in such areas which make wind farm development less feasible (such as transmission to the grid and the existence of natural parks + more).

South Africa appears to be sitting on a wind mine of wind resource. Figure 4 shows the global average wind speeds again at 80m above ground and the dark red along the Southern tip of Africa highlights this (and in Somalia and Ethopia and North West Africa!). But we sit far behind Europe, China and India in installed wind capacity. Conclusion: this is not to say that we don’t have the resource, we do! But how can the market be stimulated?

With 1.5GW of installed capacity, wind energy contributes 3% to the South African grid (see Figure 5. Denmark has around 50% wind). Anyway, it’s not all doom and gloom, Figure 6 shows a plot from recent work conducted by the CSIR Energy Centre for which best and worse case future installed capacities are shown until 2050. (Plus our coal stations are estimated to be decommissioned in the next 100 years so something has got to fill that 74% contribution). Essentially, we are transitioning towards renewable energy, and we have the added benefit of jumping on decreasing prices of technology. Before we get ahead of ourselves we also have to consider other challenges. Will renewable energy consistently provide South Africa with the power needed to operate it’s mines? How will we address loss of jobs due to the decommissioning of coal mines?

Those aren’t my questions to answer, but I do know that SARETEC offer courses to train specialists in wind energy technologies.

On the flip side, we can also start to consider HOW AFRICA can use this wind resource to provide better ACCESS to electricity? Is it possible to bring the power to the people and begin creating small scale wind farms for small communities. How will that affect the economy of power?

Okay, I think I have left enough unanswered questions. To conclude, I had such a great time learning about wind energy. It is totally different to my usual work which is more abstract and theoretical and relating to humans, whilst wind energy deals with large, practical infrastructural questions.

Wind Turbine Prototype Design.

On last comment, I have a task ahead of me to build a small scale wind turbine prototype (pictured above and designed and patented by my grandfather). Luckily, since this project, I have more knowledge under my belt, but I still don’t know so much, especially about things related to material design. If this sounds like something you would be interested in then drop me a line.

Oh oh also, we exhibited our contribution to the Project Moya project at DST. Thanks for funding young scientists in SA!

Exhibition Day.

Thanks for checking in. Check out the resources:

Find our more about the DSIDE projects:

WindAC is a wind energy conference hosted in Cape Town with the aim of realising African wind energy investment. It focuses on the academic research in this field and runs alongside the Windaba. It’s an excellent conference and super informative:

The data used to create the power density plots was from the CSIR Energy Centre. It consists of wind profile data over the entire country at 5 x 5km spatial resolution and 15 minute temporal evolution for the period 2009 to 2013. Get in touch if you have more questions. Also, I made the graphic using Inkscape, I was recently introduced to this software and it is really flexible – highly recommend.

The renewable wind energies depicted in Figure 2 are from the energy blog:





[verb] Abschalten. To switch off.

‘We are always travelling, whether it’s physical, spiritual, mental or emotional’ said my friend Liza.

A brief examination of my travels over the past few months reveals that my spiritual, mental and emotional rooms have traveled far, following the physical.

But another model comes to mind for me, also with four rooms, Ikigai. A japenese concept which means reason for being. It is popularly illustrated with a venn diagram of passion, mission, profession and vocation.

Ikigai by

I was attracted to this a few years ago, attracted to finding that sweet midspot. During that search, I find each one of them at different stages, different levels, different skills and different paces and places. One part of me wants to get to work filling up one circle by experience, but I try to remember, you are always at work. Perhaps you have not had gratitude for the travels you have made in one of the circles you forgot check in on. Check in on yourself. #mentalhealthawareness

My profession has travelled places. I attended my first summer school, hosted by Berlin Math School at the Technikon Universitat (TU) in Berlin, Germany. The programme was titled ‘Probablistic and Statistical Methods for Networks’. It was a 2 week programme running at the end of August (whilst the university is closed). A typical day has 3 lectures each 1.5 hours and another session at the end of the day for participants to present their own work. Each lecturer may use two or three of these lectures to present their work. Those that stood out for me were two:

  • Shankar Bhamidi from North Carolina University. He introduced me to the result of Aldous 1997, which states that in the limit, the ordered size of connected components in a random graph (Erdos-Renyi random) is proportional to brownian motion (of a particular type). There is underlying intuition that reasons this from the stochastic property of both. The actual reasoning I am yet to discover.
  • Prof. Wilhelm Stannat from TU, Berlin – Stochastic mean-field theories for brain networks. Let me be honest, a lot of this talk felt for me like keeping afloat on the islands of interests I have thus far pursued, whilst there is a jungle breathing in the waters beneath.  To swim, or not to swim? Choice and surrender. My interest was piqued by the concept of modelling neural connectivity. I had previously encountered a paper by Prof. Pete Grindrod, who lectured Data Analytics at AIMS SA. This paper proposes a mathematical model for consciousness from the complex neuron-to-neuron interaction.
BMS Summer School Attendees.

The second talk helped lead me to begin explore an area of research called Computational Neuroscience. The talk, and a book, and a follower on twitter and probably that time when I was 15 and I wanted to be a doctor – a neurologist – and I worked at King’s College Hospital London for two weeks and watched someone have brain surgery.

I found a paper by my twitter follower which sounded so fascinating but I couldn’t even read my way through the abstract. Some time on, I am reminded of one lesson from the book ‘the Art of Learning’: you may wish, as you become more skilled in your practice, to hold yourself accountable to some particular standard, but in these times, we must remember that we are always in the process of learning – treat yourself like a beginner.  Or to paraphrase Kendrick: sit down, be humble. So with recommendation from my twitter follower, I have begun to read ‘Machine Learning and Pattern Recognition’ by Bishop. At this point, I must mention that I did reach out to other people asking for advice and suggestions. Meanwhile, life has it’s own pace.

Tate Modern Exhibition

In other news, I’m back in London. I lived in London from age 14 to 18.  Highlights have been the spectacular event New Scientist Live, a workshop hosted by the Alan Turing Institute about the use of Data Science in Civic Society, situated on the first floor of the British Library, and the exhibition held at the Tate Modern, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, and of course, the familiar faces of family, friends, and Londoners. Still to visit the National Science Museum. For now, I will just say that I am grateful for my travels and the support.

View from The British Library

As usual, I will put some resources at the bottom of the page, and I look forward to updating you on some exciting learning opportunities in the pipeline.

A meditation for mental wellness:

TU Berlin RandGraph Summer School resources:

Paper by Pete Grindrod:

Paper by Kai Ueltzhöffer:

Read more about The Alan Turing Institute:





National Science Week 2017

This week brought to close National Science Week 2017. AIMS South Africa, hosted their activities in OR Tambo Hall in Khayelitsha, orchestrated by Dr Mpfareleni Rejoyce Gavhi-Molefe (mother, researcher and social investor). I wasn’t sure what to expect as this is the first time I had participated in National Science Week. The hall was set up with mathematical activities on the left hand side, exhibition stands on the right, and a seated stage area in the centre. This was where I worked, up on the stage, on the floor, amongst the audience of Grade 7 to 12 learners from the surrounding areas of Khayelitsha. Despite the fact that these were children – and I was therefore pretty much exempt from those academic questions which outsmart my logic – it can be pretty intimidating being on stage and presenting to large audiences. Fortunately, I soon remembered that Emily Muller has an exhibitionist ego and it was just a matter of finding some comfort in the space to let her reign. I enjoy public speaking and it is a skill I would like to develop. I have learnt from this experience to take time, take time to speak and to let the audience hear what you say. Do not spend too much time rehearsing what you will say. On the other hand, it should be useful to have a catalogue of stories which you can call upon when time is abundant.


Crafting a catalogue of stories requires inspection of the message you want your audience to hear. What do I want to tell to South African learners? This is a question I will continue to ask myself throughout my life. All I know now is that I want the theme of our rhetoric to change. I do not want to speak of the structural oppression which exists for women, for under resourced school attendees, for township learners, for people of colour in this country. I do not want black people to tell me that they do not believe their people able to maintain mass agricultural production on this land. I once asked physicist Prof Robert de Mello Koch if he believes there to be fundamental laws, to which he replied ‘there may not be fundamental laws, but as scientists, we continue as though there are’. We experience the laws of oppression which exist and that is an altogether convincing argument for their existence. Perhaps our role is to continue as though there are not.

Photo by Yasmin Hankel.

I would suggest that the desired outcomes of National Science Week 2017, are to stimulate and propagate, amongst learners, an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), to encourage students to pursue STEM careers, to disseminate information for support if one chooses to pursue an education in STEM. With outcomes in mind, how can we measure the impact of social initiatives? The LOGIC model provides a sound structure for implementing social initiatives. Data provides reasonable quantitative feedback for measuring the impact. The question remains, what data do we collect? And how can it be abstracted into something applicable across social initiatives?

The past two paragraphs are the result of far from finalised thought processes and if these happen to cross your interest, please contact me for a conversation.

One massive shout out to the sqkwod who made the whole experience hella fun.

Photo by Yasmin Hankel

Find out more about Dr Mpfareleni Rejoyce Gavhi-Molefe:

Check out images from the event:

Read more about the logic model approach:

Read the article for AIMS SA NSW 2017 posted in Khayelitsha newspaper:


July 2017

I’m flying from Pretoria to Cape Town today and have concluded that these moments in transit provide the best time to reflect on recent experiences, and to share them before they become stale, distant and condensed to a sentence or two.

I have spent the past 4 weeks doing vacation work at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) department of Modelling and Digital Science (MDS). It was only 2 months ago that I was introduced to the CSIR via Dr Vukosi Marivate, senior researcher at MDS, when he presented his work at a data science conference hosted at AIMS. The programme focuses on using Data Science for Impact and Decision Enablement (DSIDE). From my perspective, this is the very essence of being an applied mathematician. Give me a problem, let me have a rummage around my tool-kit – or visit Google – and let’s get to work.

What I have since learnt, is that the CSIR has research departments in various sciences, from nanotechnology, to biosciences, to robotics, to information security to energy and more. I got to learn of research on: plant responses to explosives, 3D mapping for autonomous vehicles and image recognition in robotics to name a few.


I was fortunate to work closely with the CSIR Energy Centre, modelling the potential power output from wind energy based on wind profile data over the entire country. I have learned that South Africa has huge potential for wind power as a (renewable) source of energy. Furthermore, the CSIR Energy Centre actively sources energy from solar PV for the CSIR campus. The entire building for MDS is powered by solar PV.


It was also the first time I have visited Pretoria. I learnt that Gauteng is home to the largest urban jungle and this was especially apparent at the CSIR. My walk to work was accompanied by birds, bunnies, impalas and the diverse fauna which this country boasts.


The biggest challenge during this time was working in groups with people from a range of different disciplines and backgrounds. Nevertheless, it is incredibly inspiring to witness and participate in the hunger of young South African scientists to learn and grow when given the opportunity.


I am also trying to manage how to incorporate exercise and well-being into my routine as I prepare for a nomadic 2017H2. I was able to slot a short 2/3km jog home from work 3 to 4 times a week, followed by body conditioning that I learned from the Cape Cross-fitters. Short term goal: manage one press-up without knees. I am also ever grateful for my yoga teacher Retief Svenster, and the School of Practical Philosopy. Both have imparted to me lessons that are so valuable and when practised, bring a much appreciated balance into my life. Tip: meditation. Long term goals: find affordable hair-care routine (TBC). My first attempt has been a coconut oil, avocado oil and essential oil blend, but it was far too heavy for my hair type. Time for research.



Read more about the DSIDE projects:

Check out Dr Vukosi Marivate and what he’s about on twitter:

Read more about the study conducted by the CSIR Energy Centre :

Read more about data science for social good: