The Solar Thermal Energy Research Group (STERG) at Stellenbosch University is not only dedicated to advancing solar thermal energy research but also to fostering a strong sense of community among its members. The group’s commitment to excellence in research is complemented by a tradition of social activities that bring the team together throughout the year.

Every Friday afternoon, STERG members pause their research to gather for a relaxing cookie break. This weekly ritual provides a welcome respite from intensive work, allowing researchers, students, and staff to connect informally as well as allowing for a chance to discuss current events and technical issues.

Once each semester, STERG members gather for a braai. This event is a highlight, offering a relaxed outside setting for informal conversation, and delicious food.

Recently, the group hosted a pizza and movie night, featuring the classic Western film “3:10 to Yuma.” This event combined delicious pizza with a great movie, creating a truly memorable social event.

Other events in the past have included tours to wine farms in the surrounding Cape Winelands area, soccer matches and paint ball games.

Towards the end of the academic year, usually around November, STERG hosts its Year-end function. For many years this event was a traditional South African “Spit-braai”. Last year STERG broke tradition by hosting the function at the picturesque Le Pommier Wine Estate outside Stellenbosch. The Year-end function is the highlight of the STERG social calendar and a chance to celebrate the group’s hard work and dedication during the year.

Prof. McGregor emphasised the importance of these social activities: “While our primary focus is on advancing solar thermal energy technology, we recognise that our strength lies in our people. These social events are crucial in building the relationships that drive our collaborative research forward.”

Credit: Jean Schnaar-Campbell, Leigh van der Merwe, Craig McGregor