Congratulations Adam Venter, recipient of the Rector’s Award for Social Impact

We congratulate our PhD candidate, Adam Venter, a most worthy recipient of the Rector’s Award for Social Impact.


Adam did both his BEng and MEng at M&M Engineering department and is currently rounding up his PhD (Mechanical Engineering) studies.


His research focuses on the computational modelling of power station cooling fans under supervision of Professor Johan van der Spuy.


Asked about his research focus, Adam says, “Due to the scale of power station cooling systems, when we try to model them numerically, we have to use reduced order aerodynamic codes; however, these codes are only able to give us a limited approximation of actual system performance. So, my research is specifically attempting to improve these simplified codes.”


Besides his research and academic workload this humanitarian volunteers much of his time with the NSRI and the VWS. We asked Adam about his experiences thus far and we are astonished and highly inspired by this self-effacing young man’s extraordinary endeavours.


Adam says, “Outside of academics, I am a ‘serial volunteer’; I started volunteering when I was 16 years old, and I have since accumulated well over 1000 hours of community service. I started off as a volunteer lifeguard, qualified through Western Province Lifesaving, then later during my undergraduate degree I qualified as a wildland firefighter with Volunteer Wildfire Services (VWS) (where I am still active at three stations – Stellenbosch, Helderberg and Newlands). Now, most recently, I have qualified as a crew member for the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) at Station 2, Bakoven”


“I joined the VWS in 2016 and in 2019 I was promoted to Crew Leader. I joined NSRI Station 2 in August 2021 and qualified as a crew member by June 2022, which is in record time.”


Asked about what prompted his involvement, he says “Outside of the tragedy that you sometimes face, I find the emergency medical and rescue scene very exciting: the physicality, the strategy, the rawness of nature, the teamwork etc. But also, beyond the excitement and adrenaline, it is amazing to be able to really help others and this is truly what makes all the sacrifice and standby hours’ worth it! – it is not unusual for me to be on standby every weekend of the month during the summer season.”


“The devastating Cape Town fires of 2015 motivated me to seek out ways to get involved and to help, and that is when I came across the VWS. The VWS is a key player in the provincial response to major wildfire incidents. At times, the VWS is the only defense standing between a community and disaster.”


“I joined the NSRI when I moved to Cape Town in 2021. Given that the NSRI is the primary sea rescue resource in SA, to qualify you must live within close proximity to a rescue base. During standby duty, we are required to be able to get to base within 10 minutes. So as soon as I met that requirement, I didn’t hesitate to join.”


“The most memorable fires that I have responded to are most definitely the Knysna fire (2017) and the George fire (2018).”


“The well-known Knysna fire was truly a unique experience; the atmosphere was one of desperation and vulnerability, but it was contrasted by the energy and enthusiasm of so many people trying to make a difference. We experienced a huge range of emotions on that fire; we witnessed incredible acts of bravery, the pain of death and evacuations, the overt kindness of strangers and the joy of both small and large victories.”


“The George fires of 2018 was a very different experience. This was the largest fire in SA’s history (at approximately 96k ha). The fire burnt from Riversdale all the way through to Tsitsikamma; however, the fire remained largely deep in the mountains, so it did not receive a lot of media coverage. My team spent a week living in the mountains just off Barrydale – staying in Cape Nature huts and travelling into the town to use the bathrooms at Wimpy. We worked on a 24-hr shift rotation: 24 hrs on the line, then 24 hrs. rest. The camaraderie on that fire was second to none and although we were often exhausted, we still managed to pull off some of the most epic firefighting I have seen.”


“For NSRI, the most memorable call out so far was a couple weeks back. A young girl unfortunately fell off the rocks near Llandudno beach and was swept out to sea.  I was involved in the search and recovery of the girl the following day. This was a tragic callout, but to be able to help provide closure for the family and friends meant a lot.”


“I encourage everyone to try out volunteering, not just for the VWS or NSRI, but anywhere you can make a positive difference.”


If anyone is curious to find out more about joining the VWS or NSRI they can visit the links below: