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Change the world


Reasons to be Proud #R2bP - Nelson Mandela University and its tangible coding partner took top honours at a recent prestigious national ICT Awards ceremony.

Mandela University alumnus Byron Batteson, Computing Sciences’ Prof Janet Wesson and Tangible Africa Regional Coordinator in Mpumalanga, Nomusa Keninda,

The Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA) – the professional body for ICT Practitioners in South Africa - hosted their Annual President’s Awards ceremony recently. The awards highlight the talent and commitment of individuals within the ICT industry in South Africa and nominees are received from various spheres of the industry.

Professor Janet Wesson from the Department of Computing Sciences at Nelson Mandela University was announced the winner of the Distinguished Service in ICT Award. The award, by EngineerIT and the IITPSA, recognises a significant, career-length contribution to the ICT profession and/or the ICT Industry.

Earlier this year Prof Wesson also received an international award, the IFIP TC13 Pioneer in Human-Computer Interaction Award and was the only 2023 awardee from Africa. Prof Wesson has been one of the pioneers of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) in South Africa, with most of her research focused on Interaction Design, Information Visualization, Smart Homes, and Usability Engineering.

Prof Wesson, who is retiring at the end of this year, has enjoyed a long and exciting teaching and research career in the Department of Computing Sciences, spanning more than 40 years.

She has taught virtually every course in the department - from first year to Honours - including programming, data structures, database systems, software engineering, mobile computing, HCI, and usability engineering, inter alia. Some of her career highlights include serving as Head of the Department of Computing Sciences (2005 to 2009), and Director of the School of Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Physics and Statistics from 2017 to 2021.

Department of Computing Sciences Head of Department, Prof Jean Greyling, said the department was very proud of the latest accolade Prof Wesson has received. “This is well deserved, since Janet has applied her expertise in HCI over many years in teaching and research supervision, equipping literally hundreds of graduates who are now making an impact across the world.”

A clean sweep

Prof Greyling also congratulated Tangible Africa Regional Coordinator in Mpumalanga, Nomusa Keninda, for being announced the winner in the category Social Responsibility Community Award at the IITPSA Annual President’s Awards today.

The award is for a “person/ team /project delivering the benefits of IT on a not-for-profit basis into the community / or bringing the community into the IT space (addressing the digital divide)”.

Tangible Africa is an engagement project of Mandela University’s Computing Sciences Department and its implementation partner, the Leva Foundation.

Another finalist for the Social Responsibility Award was the developer of the TANKS and RANGERS coding applications, Byron Batteson. TANKS and RANGERS have become the flagship apps played at schools and coding tournaments, and due to its offline capabilities, it has been introduced to some of the most remote areas in the continent and world by Tangible Africa.

The TANKS app formed part of Batteson’s 2017 Honours in Computing Sciences research at Mandela University. In partnership with his supervisor, Prof Greyling, the concept was rolled out since 2018, using tangible coding to introduce coding concepts without the need of computers, electricity, internet, nor teachers with official training in coding.

Since 2017 Tangible Africa has reached over 100 000 learners, trained 25 000 teachers, and received various local, national, and international accolades.

In November 2022 the project was the first runner up in the African Union Innovating Education in Africa Awards. The annual Mandela Day coding tournament has developed into the biggest Mandela Day event in the country, and possible the world, with over 10 000 learners participating in over 70 sites on 18 July 2023.

A major project in 2023 had been adapting the app to be accessible to the visually impaired, by making its interface work in high contrast. This is in partnership with Bona Ubuntu, who are now introducing tangible coding to visually impaired and blind learners. Batteson is currently also working towards a “tournament app” which will allow for virtual coding tournaments across different countries and continents.

Keninda is an e-Learning Specialist for the Mpumalanga Department of Education and the Founder of the Mpumalanga ICT Club. She was acknowledged for DigiGirlz, an initiative aimed at empowering and mentoring young girls from rural villages to pursue STEM-related careers.

She is no stranger to receiving awards, including the Inspiring Fifty 2020, a Trailblazer award winner 2021 by the Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI) and she recently participated in a 5-week mentorship programme in the United States as a Techwomen Emerging Leader 2023. She is a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and Fellow since 2016.

Keninda will graduate next year with her MEd degree in ICT in Education (CW) from the University of Johannesburg. The title of her thesis is “Grade 8 and 9 girls’ perceptions of coding and robotics in a DigiGirlz workshop in the Nkangala District.” She used Tangible Africa’s flagship coding game, TANKS, as a coding environment to assess and observe the girls’ coding interests and skills.

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160