CSIR's Data Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa hosts its annual coding school

Presentations were given to the students by CSIR stakeholders such as Dr Wakaba, Executive Cluster Manager of CSIR NextGen Enterprises and Institutions; Dr Sithole, Manager of the National Integrated Cyber Infrastructure System (NICIS); Mr Thabang Mokoena from IThemba Labs; Miss Noluvuyo Gqadu from CodeNgwana and the North-West University team from the Language Technology Department.

Training was attended by 40 grade 10 and 11 learners from Mamelodi High School and Phateng Secondary school who are currently studying mathematics and science.

Training began with a basic introduction no what a computer is and its various components. Thereafter, the students were able to disassemble the computer and see what it looked like internally. Students were also introduced to Python Programming and the basic concepts of programming and computational thinking such as decomposition and abstraction, then they proceeded to install the Python program.

Students also used Micro Bits, which were donated by Arm, a company that is a British semiconductor and software design company, that specialises in the design of Arm processors such as Central Processing Units. The learners were tasked with finding a problem within their community that they could try and solve using the new knowledge gained from Python and the use of Micro Bits to see how technology can be used to create solutions for their challenges.

Some of the students came up with an idea of using the Micro Bit to notify them of areas with strong network as they realised that during loadshedding, the network signal on their phones is also affected. Other students worked on ideas for using the Micro Bit devices as an air pollution detector. Another team used the micro bit as a step counter to encourage South Africans to exercise more, which would result in healthier citizens.

Twelve students were then selected to further participate in the upcoming DIRISA Datathon Training, which will be held in July 2023. The aim of the DIRISA Datathon Training is to introduce the students to data science.

Dr Happy Sithole concluded that, "The coding school is one of the key initiatives of the NICIS in ensuring that we invest in our youth. For sustainability in the future, only nations that have strong coding background will be able to innovate and manage complex data issues. Hence, this investment will go a long way for South Africa's digital strategy."

The DIRISA coding school team looks forward to the forthcoming DIRISA Datathon Training.

For more information, please contact Dr Nobubele ShoziNShozi@csir.co.za