Denel’s Lumka Msibi, whose career has taken her from Antarctica to the frontiers of space research, received the Ubuntu Youth Diplomacy Award.
In the past two years, Lumka Msibi’s career has taken her from the frozen plains of Antarctica to the frontiers of space research. Now, the 24-year-old engineer at Denel has received South Africa’s highest award for young ambassadors who promote a positive image of the country.
She received the Ubuntu Youth Diplomacy Award at a banquet hosted in Cape Town by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, and attended by President Jacob Zuma. It recognised her contributions “to promote South Africa as a dynamic country which creates an environment where youth can thrive and help to make the world a better place”.
Born in Soweto, Msibi matriculated from Parktown High School for Girls as one of the top 10 achievers in Gauteng, in 2008. With a bursary from Denel, she then studied for a degree in aeronautical engineering from the School of Mechanical, Industrial and Aeronautical Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand.
During her internship at Denel Dynamics, the division in the defence group responsible for advanced technology in the fields of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicle systems, Msibi was offered the opportunity to participate in a mission to Antarctica.
In November 2013, she joined the Summer Relief Voyage, which travelled to the southern edge of the world to replenish the South African team at the Antarctica Expedition Base (SANAE).
During her time on the icy continent, Msibi participated in the upgrade of the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) at the research base, SANAE IV. This installation is used to monitor the dynamic space weather and serve as an early warning system for satellites by analysing solar activities.
On her return to South Africa, Msibi joined Denel Spaceteq as a Structural Engineer. Spaceteq is the group’s space engineering unit which is responsible for projects such as the development of an earth observation satellite, the EO-Sat1.
In November last year, she won the first prize among 500 entries in a global competition hosted by the International Astronautics Conference in Toronto, Canada. Her technical paper was based on the research work done in Antarctica, but also her involvement in Denel Spaceteq’s Schools Outreach Programme.
Engineers from Spaceteq visit various schools in the Western Cape where they inform young learners about the activities of Denel and engineering as potential careers. More than 200 learners in grades 10 to 12 participated in this programme in 2014.
The Group Chief Executive of Denel, Riaz Saloojee, says Msibi “represents everything that is good about South Africa. In her young career, she had already received international recognition for her research, but she also contributes to the growth of the next generation of engineers and artisans through her participation in Denel’s outreach programmes.”