Students from Forge Academy, South Africa's first fully inclusive Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) laboratory, recently took part in a tri-continental hackathon between students from South Africa, Finland and the USA.
"The hackathon was a great opportunity for South African ICT students to represent their country and continent among leading tech nations and to grow their ICT skills. Our students gained practical experience on how to solve consumer and business problems using digital solutions, specifically how to build customer-driven chatbots. We look forward to hosting future continental hackathons because it gives students a chance to develop their ICT skills in a fun and exciting environment," said CEO of Forge Academy, Arthur Wade Anderson.
Organised by EduExcellence, the Finnish education specialists; the South African leg was hosted at Forge Academy in Gauteng. Student teams specialising in ICT studies each designed ChatBot software programme as a digital solution to guide 'consumers' through a symptom diagnostics programme for coronavirus symptoms.
Forge Academy had three teams of South African-based students participating in the hackathon. These seven students are enrolled at the 4IR laboratory and are working towards their telecommunications certificate at Forge Academy.
Disebo Mokoena, a Telecommunications student at Forge Academy said, "It was very informative, challenging and a great learning experience for me, as I had never done a hackathon before or learned about Chatbots".
Senior lecturer at Forge Academy, Asko Mononen, coached the teams at Forge Academy before they began with the software programming challenge. "The students were happy to jump into this new way of learning. The participation was proactive, and all teams managed to deliver their concepts and first prototypes to their 'customers'," said Mononen.
The technological solutions developed by the teams will be put forward as viable business solutions as part of a Forge Academy practical module. "The most advanced team created a virtual chatbot for a theoretical construction company. Their chatbot asked questions about customer/employee needs and then forwarded the information to the company, enabling the company to respond quickly to their customers. This particular chatbot will later complement another team's work that built an online presence and digital marketing campaign for the same company," said Mononen.
An incubation hub for not only students; Forge Academy works in close association with the Finnish Embassy, Nokia and other corporates to provide an enabling space for students and start-up businesses that rely on 4IR technologies. Here they can access special funding, laboratory time, Wi-Fi, think tanks, smart technologies, assistance in product certification and the latest expertise in order to successfully operate in this space.
South Africa is just like the rest of the world in finding itself in the middle of a new revolution. The 4IR is creating opportunities to harness converging technologies to design an all-inclusive future. Situated in Fourways at The Gantry, Forge Academy prepares students from all walks of life with theoretical, laboratory and on-the-job training for their participation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the global digital economy.