The important rise of data science was highlighted in yet another event on the campus of Stellenbosch University (SU) recently, when a data science challenge was included in the second annual SU fintech-themed hackathon.
This year, Innovus, the main organisers of the event, doubled up on everything: 70 students participated (double the number from last year), students had two challenges this year and double the amount of coffee to help students get through the rigorous programme. Sponsored by Entersekt, Capitec and Explore, the event was held over the weekend of 02 to 04 August 2019.
The SU hackathon focuses on bringing talented student programmers, designers, builders, statisticians, scientists and engineers to come together to learn, build and share their creative ideas, while solving industry-relevant problems innovatively.
Industry sponsors are involved in this initiative in a hands-on manner, not only through providing sponsorship for the event, but also through the provision of a challenge framework and mentors for the students throughout the event. This enables students to network and create close ties with industry stakeholders, while becoming cognisant of the problems that the relevant industries face.
The industry stakeholders involved in the hackathon in turn help to identify talented students for employment and market their company culture to other students.
According to Camille de Villiers, Technology Transfer Officer at Innovus, the aim of the hackathon is to foster an entrepreneurial spirit on campus and to create entrepreneurial awareness. “These activities lead to valuable educational experiences for students, which augment classroom teachings and enhance the 'Stellenbosch experience' for the student community. This hackathon may lead to job creation opportunities for graduates, parallel career development for young researchers and a positive impact on the local developer community through encouraging the sharing of innovative ideas and networking within the community."
The first annual SU hackathon (the “SU Fintechathon") was held in 2018 as a collaboration between Innovus and two local companies, Capitec Bank and Entersekt. Last year's SU Fintechathon was hugely successful and whilst the innovations pitched during the event are yet to be developed further, it fostered valuable connections between SU's student innovators and the sponsoring companies that lead to some hiring opportunities.
At this year's hackathon, students had the option of signing up for one of two challenges: a fintech coding challenge or a data science challenge. The theme of both challenges was to come up with creative solutions to include under-served consumers.
The fintech challenge sponsored and set up by Capitec and Entersekt received help from the Departments of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and the Department of Mathematical Sciences at SU. While the data science challenge was sponsored and set up by Capitec and Explore, and they were helped by the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at SU. SU IT also jumped in to ensure that the WiFi ran smoothly for the event.
Ten teams battled it out day and night over the weekend to see who the winning team for each challenge would be and walk away with the following cash prizes: first prizes for both the data science and fintech challenges was R15 000 and the runner-up prize money for both challenges was R5000.
The winning team for the data science challenge was Hedge Back, made up of first year MCom Financial Risk Management students David Rodwell, Robert Cronjé and Christiaan le Roux.
The Hedge Back team with August Carstens from Capitec
on the far right.
The Abnormal Distributions team, with all four members from the Engineering Faculty, was the runner-up in the data science challenge.
The winning team for the fintech coding challenge was the Ctrl Alt Elite team, which consisted of Gregor Feierabend, Josephine Rey, Emile Ferreira and Jason Brown. All four members are first-year BSc Mathematical Science students. The PMJ team, all three Electrical Engineering students, came in second in the fintech coding challenge.
The Ctrl Alt Elite team with Richard Bailey from Entersekt
on the far right.
Josephine Rey from the Ctrl Alt Elite team said she was very thankful for the opportunity that SU created for students to participate in this event. “It was a privilege to be part of such an inspiring space and my team is extremely grateful for this recognition. Thank you for a great weekend at the hackathon."
De Villiers hopes that hosting the Stellenbosch University hackathon every year will increase the entrepreneurial and innovation culture across the SU campus.
“It is Innovus' goal to expand on the innovation and entrepreneurial culture on campus by providing entrepreneurship support and assisting in stimulating innovative thinking among the students at Stellenbosch University. It is also of great importance to us to support the growth of the innovation knowledge region in the greater Stellenbosch area through networking with local industry."
For more information on the SU hackathon visit, https://www.innovus.co.za/.