Coders’ Cup

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Its been a great year in the coders cup, unfortunately all good things must come to an (temporary) end.

Congratulations to Pod 19 which was the all round best pod and therefore winning the coders cup. So big up to the Pod 19 members Arno Swanepoel, Eartha Hansman, Keang Nage, Tristan Maske and Thulasizwe Mavuso.

Congratulations are also in order for the following:

  • All the Pod 5 nerds for the podumetary.
  • Johann Buys, Sizwe Mashele, Dean Dutoit and Motlatso Morokolo for Gaming.
  • Viashen Govender for Soccer.
  • Tumelo Mohlahla for Chess.
  • Everyone for Fmac…..
  • Arno van Wyk and Kalilo Hansmen fo the CoreWar Championship

Its been a great year of fun and games and next year will hopefully be even better.

May the code be with you

UBER – Careers of the Future –Career Education Masterclass

On Saturday 29 October UBER hosted the inaugural  UBER-Careers of the Future-Career Education Masterclass at the General Electric Africa Innovation Centre in Houghton Estate Johannesburg.

High school students from around Johannesburg spent the majority of the day learning and listening to various speakers about about potential careers. Speakers included Kathy Berman from General Electric, Yoilsa Mashilwane, Timothy Willis & Sankari Nair from UBER, Unathi September from Gradesmatch, Neo Hutiri from Technovera and Arlene Mulder and students from WeThinkCode_.

Students got to hear how they can pursue a tech career by studying at WeThinkCode_ from Arlene Mulder. WeThinCode students also engaged with and  gave demonstrations on some of the projects they have done. These demonstrations included a session on how to build a web page and using a Raspberry Pie and Arduino in robotics.

Below are some images taken at the event.

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Government in your pocket

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The Ekurhuleni Municipality hosted the EMMHack on the 30th of September at the Alberton Civic Centre. Khwezi, his brother Viwe, Andrew (a friend from Rustenburg we met at Geekulcha Hackathon earlier in the year), and myself were part of 36 teams that took part in the event. We called ourselves Incognito.

Upon arrival on Friday we all huddled together in groups of people we knew (which defeats the entire purpose), I was happy to note that Mandisi and Timothy from We Think Code were also at the event, which made things a little less awkward. Techies have a way of shutting people out, and that makes networking hard at these events.

The 48 hour hack kicked off on the Friday evening with a fancy dinner, pumping us up for a long weekend. The theme of the hack, “A digitally connected city,” meant that the city of Ekurhuleni was looking to improve the integration of technology into their structures and they were giving away R150 000 to see this happen.

The municipality provided challenges for us to work on, the most popular being (1) a way to make what government does visible to the public, (2) a way to make government information accessible to the people and across departments, and (3) the automation of the government housing allocation system. Our team sat for almost two hours deciding on what to work on and we eventually decided to build an app that would allow you to resolve one issue that needed you to interact with different government departments, all in one go.

Here’s a scenario: If I get mugged (which is very common), and during this incident I get stabbed, and my handbag (which has my ID in it) gets stolen, then I would have to report this case to the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department, with the reference number from there apply for a new ID from the department of Home Affairs, where they would give me their own reference number and head to the clinic for stitches and receive another reference number when I open a file with them.

Our idea was to create a system that let’s you log a case on your phone, get one reference number, and have to validate the case only once at one department. This would mean that instead of travelling to the clinic, then to the police station, then too home affairs and potentially wasting two days, you would just need to open a case online, get a reference number, head to the clinic, where they would confirm your case, and once you get your stitches the system would log a case with the EMPD, and then remotely with Home Affairs. And all you would then need to do is go to home affairs at a later stage and collect your ID.

The application would use the Department of Home Affair’s database as the main source of information. The department is your first point of interaction with government (that’s if you are not born in a public hospital) and your last point once you have died. When you get the app, you’d need to register using your ID number, and just as you would with a banking app, go into a government branch to verify the account. The app would then give you the option to fill in other information about yourself, such as where you currently live, where you work, what your tax number is, whether you are on the grant system… This information will improve on and cross-check what government knows about you across the various departments.

The app would also allow you to map progress on your query until it is closed and at the end of each stage prompt you to rate the value of service provided to you. Because the case is allocated to a government employee at each stage, this would provide government with real-time performance reviews on their employees, thus improving monitoring and evaluation.

When the case is closed and you are informed, the app would require you to share your experience with the public using social media. Here you could express your satisfaction or discontent with government, which would deal with the first challenge of the hackathon, giving real time feedback to the people on what government is doing.

We worked tirelessly through the 48 hours, counting down each hour and ticking stuff off our to-do list. Our team consisted of three designers and a front-end guy, and that worked against us. Should we have invited more developers to our team we would have built a better prototype. We also spent a lot of time during the 6 minute presentation speaking about the problem and not the solution.

Overall, we got to answer the question, how much better can government be when they make their data available to the public? This is the question Ekurhuleni is trying to answer with their digital cities initiative.

Code School Diary: Level Up

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It’s the 16th of August 2015 and I’m writing a physics assignment about Identifying Brønsted–Lowry Acids and Bases and Their Conjugates. I have no idea where or how I’ll apply this. I don’t know exactly how this applies to me. All I know is that I am supposed to answer a couple of questions and get graded.
It’s the 28th of October 2016 and I’m working on a C programming project about building a fractal generator and explorer. I know why I am doing this though. I am building a graphics engine and applying mathematical  principles to it. In this way it will perform better than using intuition.
On the 9th of May 2016 I started a journey. A journey so far removed from my plans and capabilities that it took a moment for me to comprehend why I chose this route. Then it dawned on me. It’s the thrill of it. The beauty of it. The passion of it. All this from one month of bootcamp. A bootcamp that was such a terribly beautiful experience that it ensnared me. I knew then as much as I  know now that I… was home.
I am curious and like to solve problems. Simple enough right? Nope. I am currently working on a project called expert systems. Expert systems being a means of creating an AI of sorts that helps with the making of decisions or the evaluation of already made decisions. And to be honest. I am drowning. I don’t see an end. The task is overwhelmingly difficult. I am sleep deprived. I haven’t seen the sun in a while but I am levelling up.
I am capable of building sites, graphics engines, unix systems, AI and using algorithms. More importantly not only can I visualise the real world applications of such skills, I cant wait to apply them in tackling real world problems.
In 2015 I was on a level, then came the bootcamp in February and I levelled up. Then came the cohort in May and a week later I levelled up and I have been levelling up since.
My grades have plenty of fails and few passes yet I have retained all that I learned in attempting these projects. When I say level up I mean I became better as a person, both as a thinker and as a programmer.
The physics assignment I told you about? I got 83% for it. The fractal project I told you about? I got 0% for it. Yet I can create a fractal from its mathematical formula and graphically represent it on the screen. And I still don’t quite understand why I needed to know Acid and Base conjugates.
It’s the 13th of October 2016 and I have a project due on the 16th. Time to level up.
Written by Mandisi Makwakwa
This story is part of a regular series written for htxt.africa by students of WeThinkCode_, a revolutionary new teaching college in downtown Johannesburg, reflecting on what it’s like to be a young technologist starting out in South Africa today. Find out more about WeThinkCode_ here.
This article was originally published on htxt.africa on 17 October 2016.

Code School Diary: Yes, #FeesMustFall!

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Once again students are demanding that fees must fall. This isn’t the first time this demand has been issued and if something isn’t done in response – and soon – protests like these will most likely become annual occurrences.
I can understand the frustration that fuels #FeesMustFall. I have also been in the situation where I had to worry that my tuition fees were simply unaffordable. I mean that I, just like countless other South African students, didn’t have have stacks of cash lying ahead of being told how much more I’d have to pay to get a qualification next year. It’s also a hard fact that obtaining funding can also prove to be a mission too impossible to achieve. The current situation is not all that surprising.
People naturally have different views about the current protests. Some are positive and supportive, some are just indifferent while some are just annoyed about the inconvenience protests have on their lives. I know how the protesting students feel; it was only last year where I felt like they do right now.
So naturally I think that their demands are reasonable. I believe that in spite of the politicians’ spin about how unaffordable free education, even while less important expenditures somehow find their way onto the budget. How many billions have been spent rescuing wasteful public companies? How hard can it be to rescue students who truly need rescuing?
I feel like it’s easier for me to come have a reasonable and favourable opinion of the protesting students because I have been in a situation where I felt desperate and hopeless. I am fortunate enough to know what they are fighting for feels like.
I am able to pursue my education without worrying about exorbitant university fees and accumulating crippling debts. Under these conditions it is a whole lot easier to focus on the what’s important to any student: learning.
So knowing how it was for me and how it could be for them makes it  very easy for me to say fight on. There is no question in my mind that #FeesMustFall.
Written by Gomotso Mofokeng
This story is part of a regular series written for htxt.africa by students of WeThinkCode_, a revolutionary new teaching college in downtown Johannesburg, reflecting on what it’s like to be a young technologist starting out in South Africa today. Find out more about WeThinkCode_ here.
This article was originally published on htxt.africa on 03 October 2016.

A block of code: wethinkcode_blog #1

WeThinkCode_blog is a new and ongoing series of articles written by students at the revolutionary WeThinkCode_ school in Joburg, in which they share their experiences of being up-and-coming technologists in Africa’s most connected city. To kick things off, Tumelo Motaung reveals how one post-it note can open the door to crunching code and making friends.

Depending on how old you are, you may find 84 Market Street easier than you would 84 Albertina Sisulu Street.

If the Johannesburg Metro Police CCTV coverage extended to our part of town, you could pull three months worth of tape with over 300 gloomy-­eyed students walking in and out of the 112 year old National Bank Building.

A hustle of yellow sticky notes adorn the doorway to the cluster area, where all the work happens.

“I am here because I know nothing about coding, also for the people – I have a deep yearning to connect with people.”

That one is hers. That’s what she wrote on her post-it on her very first day on campus. Three months, hundreds of hugs, fist pumps and high-fives down the line, she calls the campus home.

After a month of going in at six-thirty in the morning and leaving at around 7pm in the evening, after working on code that made little or no sense, you grow into your peers, and they grow into you.

You get to a point where only they understand what you mean when you refer to every mishap as a norm error. She changed her status to “Coder in Training” when she was accepted into the programme.

She went around telling everyone who would listen that she would change the face of Africa from her Mac.

“I have never gotten so many zero’s in my life.”

That was the general feeling, and yet she stayed, she hung on, even when she wasn’t passing any of the exams, let alone making good grades.

The pace is a little more relaxed now, we have more time for chats and video games. The level of work, on the other hand, has shot through the roof. We scream, we scratch heads, we go blank, we go broke, we go hungry, but the learning is inevitable. (function repeat() { eat(); sleep (); code(); repeat(); })();

It is 13:42 on a Tuesday afternoon. She should have eaten at least one meal, but her PrintF is at a standstill, her brain has hit a block, again. She wants to do this one her own, “figure it out”, but there is no room for heroes at We Think Code.

She’ll need to get up and ask for some help. This is what it’s about.

This article was originally published on htxt.africa on 07 June 2016.

NERDS AND NETS

This month in the Coders Cup WeThinkCode_ students will battle it out on the field to prove who is the sportiest nerd of them all. In order for this all to be possible we will leave the dungeon we usually lock ourselves in and actually play in the sunshine.

So every Friday during the duration of the month of October, the Coders Cup Football tournament  will be held. Teams of five with a single substitute will compete in the unforgiving outdoors all in the name of glory. This will also be the only time any of the competitors wins a football game without the use of a controller.

This tournament is however only open to WeThinkCode_ students as it would be unfair on any other competitor who does not have any cheat codes at hand.

So stay tuned for regular updates on progress of the tournament and more normal things that take place on a monitor.