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Maties computer science students ace Investec hackathon
Author: Media & Communication, Faculty of Science
Published: 30/07/2020

​A team of computer science students from Stellenbosch University walked away with the first place in Investec's Programmable Banking hackathon, which took place from 23 to 24 July.

The team of BScHons students, consisting of Jaco Swart, Hendrik van Heerden, Marie-Louise Steenkamp, Annika Nel en Aidan Elias, competed against four other teams. The challenge was to add new features to an existing banking card and banking platform.

“Our approach was to try and incorporate Investec's existing insurance service with their online payments to automatically prompt users for if they want insurance when they make certain purchases, for example to offer travel insurance when they purchase plane tickets," explains Jaco Swart.

Each team had to present their solution to the other teams and to a panel from Investec.

Mr Leonard Mahlangu, from Investec Limited's people, organisation and careers division, says the panel was impressed with the SU team's resilience and ability to understand the company: “As this was the first virtual hackathon we hosted, there were countless glitches along the way which made the task even more challenging. This team, however, wasn't fazed by it at all. I believe their success formula, other than their resilience, was taking the time to understand the company and the products we offered as well as the technology landscape they were dealing with. This formed the pillar on which their winning solution was built, using technology to advance the business offering whilst improving client experience. This is the cornerstone of what we do hence their solution resonated with the judging panel."

He says Investec manages these hackathons under the “IT explore" banner: “It is an opportunity for students to explore the real world and simulate what their jobs might look like after leaving university. For us, as an organisation, the hackathons provide an opportunity to build a relationship with students as they may become part of our Tech Grad Programme after their studies, or even to come and work for us."

Prof Bernd Fischer, head of SU's Computer Science Division, says hackathons such as those organised by Investec provide students with invaluable exposure to the industry: “We appreciate Investec for providing this opportunity, as it complements our academic education and shows that we are preparing our students for the work place."

For their efforts, the winning team received a pair of Beoplay H9 Generation 3 headphones each, and a participation goodie bag with snacks.