Change the world

16/10/2019

Nelson Mandela University computing science professor Jean Greyling has been nominated for two more awards. The tech whiz’s fun and educative computer game Tanks, which he developed with former honours student Byron Batteson, won NMU’s 2019 Innovation Excellence Award in September.

Last week, Greyling was placed in the top 10 at the finals of the 2019 SAB Foundation Social Innovation Awards and won a R400,000 development award for Tanks.

Now the Institute of Information Technology Professionals has announced the professor as a finalist in both the institute’s 2019 Personality of the Year Award and its Social Responsibility/Community Award.

“The nominations are mainly linked to the work we have done with Tanks and every time we get acknowledgment for the difference we’re doing in the country it’s encouraging for the team to know that people recognise what we’re doing.

“I say ‘we’ because it’ sa team effort — there are about 30 facilitators doing the work on different roles across the country,” Greyling said.

The Institute of Information Technology Professionals SA (IITPSA) annual president’s awards acknowledge the talent and commitment of individuals within the ICT community. It is considered one of the industry’s most prestigious events.

Tanks, developed in 2017, aims to introduce pupils from disadvantaged communities to coding concepts and possibly spark their interest into software development as a career choice.

The app has since reached more than 7,000 pupils, which Greyling hopes will be 100,000 by the time Tanks turns five years old.

“Our vision is to make kids excited about programming as a career choice and we’ve already got feedback from kids who are now saying they want to study computer science when they finish matric.

“We’ve directly interacted with about 7,000 kids across the country but we are busy with a project in the metro that will make us reach 10,000 by the end of this month,” Greyling said.

Greyling called for the government and corporate companies to invest in the app for it to reach its full potential.

“It has the potential to impact the whole of Africa but we’re dependent on either government or global corporates to buy into the vision of bringing coding to kids where there are no computer laboratories,” he said.

In March, Greyling and Batteson were invited to present Tanks at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s annual Mobile Learning Week in Paris.

Tanks was the only gadget from Africa at the conference.

“The fact that we were only gadget from Africa was confirmation that we’re doing something right,” he said.

Earlier in October, Greyling unveiled Boats — another gaming app — at the launch of Marine Week.

The app, developed by Bay computer programming company Avocado Chocolate, is a spin-off from Tanks — raising awareness about marine pollution as well. Another coding app called Rangers, focusing on game poaching in Africa, is on the cards.

“It’s also similar to Tanks but it educates players about the challenges of poaching in Africa and we’ll be launching it soon,” Greyling said.

Voting lines are open on the IITPSA website https://www.iitpsa.org.za/annual-presidents-awards-2019-2/

WERNER HILLS GOING PLACES: NMU computing science professor Jean Greyling, right, has been nominated for two more awards. With him at the launch of Marine Week 2019 at the NMU Ocean Sciences Campus are SA Environmental Observation Network professor Tommy Bornman, left, and Jennifer Mohale

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) of 16 October 2019 written by Zamandulo Malonde malondez@tisoblackstar.co.za

Contact information
Prof. Jean Greyling
Associate Professor
Tel: 27 41 504 2081
jean.greyling@mandela.ac.za