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Inaugural Information Technology showcase at St Benedict’s College a great success

| November 2, 2011 | 0 Comments

By Delia Kench

In late September this year, St Benedict’s College hosted its first Information Technology (IT) showcase.

Grade 12 students from a variety of schools seized the opportunity to enter their Matric IT projects into a competition. The showcase had humble origins: for some time St Benedict’s hosted a modest ‘Show and Tell’ as a vehicle for senior students to display to parents and peers their projects, which took about six months to develop.

A crucial contest

This year we raised the bar, instituting a competition that included students from other schools so that more students would have their skills recognised, and creating an opportunity for teachers and students from a wide community to ‘network’. Entries covered a range of fascinating ideas. Some students chose to digitise a parent’s business while others created complex chat rooms. St Benedict’s boys are encouraged to write games; they seem to enjoy the gaming culture and are able to write games that have the exciting potential to be released to the public.

Esteemed judges took up the challenge

We chose judges who we knew would interrogate each aspect of the entries most carefully; Dr Ken Nixon (senior lecturer, School of Electrical and Information Engineering, University of the Witwatersrand), Dr Rennie Naidoo (senior lecturer, Department of Informatics, University of Pretoria) and Marijke Coetzee (Academy of Computer Science and Software Engineering Department, University of Johannesburg).

Twenty competitors took part from St Benedict’s College, St John’s College, Penryn College, Doxa Deo College, Trinity College, HeronBridge College and Stanford Lake College. Each competitor received a sponsored goodie bag containing flash drives, mugs, highlighters, a DVD case, pens and a tog bag. The judges were particularly impressed with the standard of the students’ projects and the depth of their programming ability to include graphics, sound, databases and detailed user interfaces. Dr Naidoo commented that he was “stunned by the talent. It makes me more optimistic about the future”.

The judges took three hours to judge the projects, while Grade 10 and Grade 11 IT students from visiting schools were encouraged to consider the quality and complexity of the IT projects on show. This is to help spread the ideas and inspire future Grade 12 students to produce projects of an even better standard. Talks were given by the judges explaining the possible IT degrees available at their universities and the dire need for IT specialists in the country. These professionals do not just design computer programmes: they deal with hardware, software, user interfaces, networks, and internet access as well, and a career in one or more of these specialist areas can be exciting and fulfilling.

Merit awards for creative design and execution

Merit awards went to:

  • Pieter-Heinrich Nel (Doxa Deo College), who dealt admirably with catering for three different sports online with divergent team structures and scoring schemes
  • Piero Saieva (HeronBridge College), who integrated cardreading hardware devices into a real-world scenario.
  • Liam Ruger (Trinity College) who put a novel spin on the traditional game of PacmanTM with clever artificial intelligence algorithms for each of the ‘ghosts’
  • Owen Wei (St Benedict’s College), who took his interest in a card game and codified it into a highly playable computer application. The judges commended him on his use of artificial intelligence to support the computer gameplay
  • Steven Lin (St Benedict’s College), who developed a very playable game that had been thoroughly tested
  • Alessandro Filippi (St Benedict’s College), who combined excellent synthesis and integration of subcomponents to make a highly playable game
  • Fast Kung (St Benedict’s College), who overcame the challenge of designing, implementing and testing a nontrivial Graphic User Interface to build a playable action game.

Success in the real world Third prize (R2 000 donated by the University of Johannesburg) was awarded to Ryan Gibbons from Trinity College, who developed a highly entrepreneurial application that is elegantly simple and easy to use. There is a strong possibility of building a solid business case around the application and marketing of this application.

Second prize – a desktop computer donated by Neutrix CC – was awarded to Matthew Ellis from Penryn College whose thorough understanding of the problem domain resulted in a highly usable and functional application to support a small business with stock and point-of-sales management. A notable feature was that business data was turned into usable information through document and graph generation. First prize was a laptop computer donated by Landynamix, which was awarded to Sean Steenkamp from St Benedict’s College for a fighting game based on the Wolverine character, with an outstanding use of graphics, novel gameplay and storyline. He made good use of a supporting database and showed evidence of thorough testing (particularly challenging in game design).

St Benedict’s will definitely host this event next year and we encourage even more competitors to take part. Our ultimate aim is to find a sponsor who will award a scholarship in the field to the winning competitor. At present, school-leavers can enter the industry via a BCom or a BSc degree, certain engineering qualifications and the new Applied Computing Degree.

Delia Kench is HoD of Technology at St Benedict’s College, Bedfordview, Johannesburg.

Category: e-Education, Summer 2011

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