First virtual SU Hackathon sees more than eighty students participate

First virtual SU Hackathon sees more than eighty students participate

The annual Stellenbosch University (SU) Hackathon, where innovation and entrepreneurship are encouraged amongst Stellenbosch students, went virtual this year over the weekend of 31 July to 2 August 2020, with more than eighty students participating in one of two challenges to win a share of the R30 000 prize money.

Hosted by Innovus, SU’s technology transfer office responsible for the commercialisation of the University’s intellectual property assets, this was the third annual Hackathon, and students could take part in either a Fintech Coding Challenge or a Data Science Challenge. This year the sponsors were Capitec, Entersekt and Explore. The theme of the Hackathon was to develop solutions that can help small businesses to function effectively in the new normal post-COVID-19 environment. Students collaborated from their homes across the country, and some from residences in Stellenbosch. 

“We challenged the contestants to think outside the box and not just to emulate existing solutions, but rather try to think of the challenges that small businesses are facing in the new rmote economy and that no one is solving yet”, says organiser Camille de Villiers, technology transfer officer at Innovus. As always, business and technology mentors, including engineers, data scientists and developers, from the sponsoring companies were available over the weekend to assist students.

Camille said thirteen student teams took part in the Data Science Challenge. They were challenged to identify ways in which data can be used to provide actionable insights into small businesses. “Teams were required to supplement the available data from small businesses with additional open-source datasets (e.g. weather, traffic, and relevant location-based services such as ATM’s) to build out specific insights for the small businesses.”

Winning with data science

The winning data science team, Designated Derivers with Ulrich Kotze, Niel van Zyl, Claudia di Santola and Thamu Mnyulwa, created an application called CAPITEC/AIR. This App provides Automated Industry Reports (AIR) for small businesses to assist them in making better buying decisions. 

CAPITEC/AIR makes gaining insights from analytics more accessible and intuitive when you can pinpoint events and trends on a map, quite literally. It makes it easier to understand critical information and take action. 

The runner-up team was Gemmer Koekies (with Murray Louw, Marco Ribeiro, Retief Louw and Jaco Luus) and an honourable mention was also made to Yeet It In Orange (with Michael Burke, DT Rodwell, Samuel Kingwill and HJ Schutte). The Judges were Prof Kanshu Rajaratnam, Director of the School for Data Science and Computational Thinking, SU, August Carstens, Manager: Data Science at Capitec Bank, Coetzee Smit, Head of Digital: Mercantile Bank, and Jaco Jansen van Rensburg, Lead Instructor: Explore Data Science Academy. 

Fintech winners

Nine student teams took part in the Fintech Challenge. The teams were challenged to use their coding skills and imagination to design and build a disruptive FinTech-inspired software solution that can help small businesses and their consumers transact and thrive in the new remote economy. 

The solution needed to include some mobile capability. 

The winning team for the Fintech challenge were Horizon 12 , with Troy Verwayen, Justin Abrams, Tieg O’Sullivan and Thomas Theron. They created a mobile application called Skillchain, which is a remote recruitment tool intended to be used by small businesses to recruit vocationally uncertified workers into the formal economy using smart contracts and blockchain to deliver its service. 

The runner-up team was KickASS, with Abdullah Karbanee, Sarah Meinie and Summayah Alimudin. An honourable mention was also made to Quaranteam, with Lauren Abrahall, Paul Geldenhuis, and Henru du Toit.

Judges for the Fintech Challenge included Prof Ingrid Woolard, Dean: Economic and Management Sciences, SU, Amrei Botha, Head: Customer Experience at Capitec Bank, and Richard Bailey, Senior Vice President: Engineering at Entersekt. 


Camille says Innovus hosts the SU Hackathon to bring talented student programmers, designers, builders, statisticians, scientists and engineers together to learn, build and share their creative ideas while solving industry-relevant problems innovatively. “Innovus believes that hosting the SU Hackathon every year contributes to the creation of an entrepreneurial and innovation culture across the SU campus.”

“These activities lead to valuable educational and career development experiences for students, which augment classroom teachings and enhance the Stellenbosch experience for the student community. The events while also have a positive impact on the local developer and innovator community in Stellenbosch through encouraging the sharing of innovative ideas and networking between industry and academia within the community.

The SU Hackathon can be regarded as a local collaboration between SU and the locally-based sponsors, Capitec and Entersekt, who set the challenge guidelines and provide mentorship for the students. Local industry’s involvement in the Hackathon provide students with real-world insights into what companies are looking at when investing in or implementing new ideas and technologies.

Lead Mentor for the Fintech Challenge and Manager of Innovation at Capitec, Francois Dempers, adds to this: “you can be the best coder and build the best solution, but if you can’t convey your idea and deliver at your pitch, then the idea won’t make it… this event prepares you for the real world.” For this reason, the 2020 SU Hackathon also included a pre-event Masterclass on Value Proposition and Pitching, facilitated by Anton Pretorius from Sologix. Camille says that the students this year really took this advice on board and overall the pitches (and creativity of the solutions) were of a significantly higher standard this year.  

The winning data science team: Designated Derivers 

Winning team for Fintech challenge: Horizon 12