Girls in Tech scoop first prize at GirlCode hackathon

by Thembeka Manetje

15 August 2023

Two Postgraduate Diploma students, Thembelihle Mnube and Andiswa Mkhonto, from the Tshwane University of Technology’s Faculty of Information and Communication Technology scooped the first prize at the 2023 GirlCode hackathon.

The GirlCode hackathon is an annual event that is hosted every August to celebrate Women's Day. This year’s theme, AI for Women, revolved around 4IR for women. The hackathon is hosted simultaneously in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Thembelihle and Andiswa participated in the hackathon that took place at the Riversands incubation hub, Johannesburg. 

During the hackathon, computer programmers and others involved in software development, such as graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, get together and collaborate intensively to build ground-breaking solutions for software projects. “The hackathon is not a competition but a collaborative learning experience where everyone will walk away with new knowledge to help them continue exploring the ICT space,” said Zandile Keebine, Chief Executive Officer of GirlCode.

Two female techies from TUT’s Department of Computer Systems Engineering formed part of the winning group, which also included a student from the University of Pretoria. 

Attributing their victory to TUT’s HoD of Computer Systems Engineering, Prof Pius Owolawi, Thembelihle Mnube, said: "Prof Owolawi has played a pivotal role in shaping me to who I am today. Under his guidance I was introduced to the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI), a field that I have come to love and embrace wholeheartedly. The journey that led me to victory in the GirlCode Hackathon, themed 'AI for Women. It is a testament to the profound influence of the education and mentorship I received from the Department of Computer Systems Engineering.”

She added that the AI skills she acquired while enrolled at the department, helped her to gear up for the competition, “When I saw the theme of the GirlCode Hackathon, AI for Women, I immediately thought about the valuable knowledge and skills the Computer System Engineering program has instilled in me. Every lesson, every challenge and every moment of inspiration I experienced within the department came rushing back, empowering me to approach the competition with confidence and determination. Our success in the competition is a shared victory, attributed to the unwavering support and mentorship of Prof Pius and a team of exceptional supervisors, including Dr Vusi Malele, Dr Mapayi, and Dr Marry. Their guidance, expertise and encouragement were instrumental in equipping me with y current knowledge. The 'Pius Fighters' not only represents our team’s name but also symbolizes the resilience, dedication and excellence Prof Pius has instilled in each of us. Fuelled by the solid foundation laid by our mentors and the invaluable lessons learned at the Department of Computer Systems Engineering, the journey continues.”

Andiswa Mkhonto, also commended the department, saying: “I am grateful to the Department of Computer Systems Engineering for all the lessons, as well as Prof Pius Owolawi for his outstanding teaching skills. He taught us computer vision, which we applied to our solution and we won! Everyone was in awe by our solution, we are truly grateful to the University that indeed makes knowledge work.” 

“This remarkable accomplishment is a testimony of how the Faculty at large aims to produce creative, adaptable and well-rounded students who are competent to participate in the key role that emerging ICT technologies play in the future world of work. We encourage our students to relentlessly search for solutions to problems and find innovative ways to improve the world. Congratulations to our Girls in Tech, Thembelihle and Andiswa,” said Dr Etienne van Wyk, Executive Dean of the Faculty of ICT. 

Prof Pius Owolawi

 From left – Andiswa Mkhonto, UP student, Thembelihle Mncube.

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