Mpumalanga’s first student Hackathon, a pioneering AI initiative

by Kgothatso Monono

16 November 2023

October 2023, saw the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in collaboration with the University of Mpumalanga (UMP) and sponsored by Nkgwete IT Solutions, NITheCS, MLAB, TUT Advancement and Partnerships Office and supported by the eMalahleni Campus Rector’s office, hosting the first Mpumalanga Artificial Intelligence Student Hackathon (MAISH) at TUT’s eMalahleni Campus.

 From left is Dr Robert Hans, Senyeki Marebane, Minckey Molemane, Dr Bhembe (University of Mpumalanga) and Mashitishi Phurutsi.

The series of Hackathons is organised under the leadership of the FoICT Executive Members including Dudu Masuku, Vice-Chief Organiser of MAISH; University Hackathon Series (UHS) Chief of Delegation, Mashitishi Phurutsi from Soshanguve; and two Academic Managers, Dr Michael Moeti in Polokwane and Senyeki Marebane in eMalahleni. 

In 2024, UMP will host the 2nd edition of MAISH.

Taking part in a Hackathon like this for the first time, can be an exciting journey filled with rewards and obstacles. It is also a chance to grow, learn, and use technology to profoundly influence the future world. Taking part in a Hackathon like this for the first time, can be an exciting journey filled with rewards and obstacles. It is also a chance to grow, learn, and use technology to profoundly influence the future world. 

Like all good things in life, the coding frenzy began with an idea and students working in pairs to execute it. Since the foundation of a Hackathon is collaboration, they learned the value of collaboration by working closely together, using each other’s abilities.

Recognising the context in which MAISH unfolds, Senyeki Marebane, Academic Manager at eMalahleni Campus said: “Embarking on this Hackathon journey, we must remember that MAISH, which has already been conceptualised in December 2022, is not just an event but a movement towards a future where innovation is a shared endeavor. Your active participation and engagement will contribute to the success of MAISH. Together, we are forging a path towards a brighter and more innovative future.”

MAISH 2023 winners. 

“Our world is undergoing rapid technological advancements and MAISH is a response to the challenges and opportunities that our students and community face in the dynamic landscape of Information and Communication Technology. MAISH is about fostering innovation, pushing the boundaries of what we think is possible and encouraging our participants to dream big. Through the hackathon format, we provide a space for inventive minds to meet, collaborate and transform their ideas into tangible solutions,” he added.

With tight deadlines, students had to present their idea to a panel of judges, giving a brief explanation of their concept, demonstrating their prototype and discussing possible consequences. Winning a hackathon is unquestionably an incredible accomplishment, but there are other benefits that go well beyond the podium, such as the networking opportunities and compilation of portfolios of work to present to potential employers or partners.

“This initiative signals that we are intentional in our educational endeavors, aimed at ensuring that we produce capable, relevant and competitive graduates for our economy. It also aims to display students’ skills and develop creative, innovative ideas to improve our livelihood through Artificial Intelligence (AI). Students should consider this as a skillset sharpening event,” Dr Robert Hans, HoD of the Faculty of ICT Department of Computer Science said.

Khensani Emmelda Chabalala, first-year student, Bachelor of Information and Communication Technology (BICT), said it was a stressful but exciting experience. “Our team, Health in a Pocket, quickly realised that teamwork was mandatory towards learning and success. We also discovered that the ability to communicate and sharing common ground as a group were very important. Winning was not the only goal. For us, it was to have our idea heard, but more importantly, to use the platform to demonstrate our capabilities as the youth.”

TUT and UMP students who participated in the 2023 hackathon.
TUT and UMP students who honoured the hackathon.

For more information on the Tshwane University of Technology, please contact Phaphama Tshisikhawe, Corporate Affairs and Marketing.
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