You are here: Home UCT wins “Engineering excellence” prize at the IT Challenge Finals hackathon
Document Actions

UCT wins “Engineering excellence” prize at the IT Challenge Finals hackathon

The UCT team BetaGo—consisting of Tae Jun Park, Kieren Davies, Anna Borysova, and Guy Patterson-Jones—scooped the “Engineering excellence” prize at the modified IT Challenge Finals that was held from 20-22 August 2016 in Johannesburg, which saw 12 teams participate, each consisting of 3-4 undergraduate and honours students from the South African universities. Unlike previous years when it was a six-hour programming contest emphasizing problem-solving and algorithmics, this edition was a 3-day hackathon with as aim to make an app relevant for finance with the Amazon Echo using Alexa, with as core value the ideation step in innovation. The apps were assessed on four criteria, being engineering excellence, creativity, financial relevance, and usability, and they were judged by a software engineer from OfferZen and several Standard Bank managers.

BetaGo focused on engineering from the start. They managed to ‘hack’ into the Alexa mobile app, so that they could get hold of the voice files (that are otherwise not available), and use those for further processing. Considering the short time available, they used a machine learning algorithm to train models of the voice of each team member, so that subsequently Alexa with their app could recognise who is talking. This was wrapped in an application for automatically taking meeting minutes and listing action items, with as planned extension to also provide transcribed meeting minutes with a what-to-do-by-whom list. BetaGo made the code open-source under a GPL licence at, so that anyone interested can use it or extend it further.

The prize is an Amazon Echo for departmental use, including for student projects. The other winners of the hackathon were:

1st: University of the Western Cape, for making deposits, payments

2nd: University of Pretoria, for cheapest grocery shopping

3rd: University of Witwatersrand, for gamification of educating laypeople about financial markets

Creativity: Walter Sisulu University; for more efficient queuing up in the bank branch

Two of the original three members of the BetaGo team that smashed the records in the IT Challenge heats on April 16—Robert Spencer and Robin Visser—could not participate due to the last-minute date change of the finals. It clashed with the International Olympiad for Informatics programming contest for secondary school learners, where both serve as coach. Their team brought home two bronze medals for South Africa.

last modified 2016-08-24 09:33