The invitation read “Join your fellow MATHackers on UCT campus for a late-night pizza party and get your code on!”
The group of three, Nicane September, Ryan Hansen and Nickilese Van der Walt seized the opportunity to enter the MATHack WC 2022, a 24- hour coding challenge for universities and colleges of the Western Cape and won second prize.
They placed themselves firmly in the spotlight with team name ‘404 Not Found’.
MATHack 2022 asked for teams of 2-4 people or individuals to sign up. They were required to use MATLAB, a programming and numeric computing platform used by engineers and scientists to analyse data, develop algorithms, and create models.
Applicants could enter whether they had no experience or advanced skills. In our department we provide our students with access to MATLAB. Our team entered at intermediate/advanced level as they were familiar with the syntax from class.
The task was to use code to help small businesses in South Africa in the wake of COVID-19. The team had to submit the code, a 3-slide presentation and a 120 second video within 24 hours.
The group decided to assess the viability of starting a small coffee shop business, with the focus on the Stellenbosch Central area. The analysis tool they used was in the form of a MATLAB live script that prompts the user for info of a start-up as input, analyses these properties against an established criterion, and generates a viability score as a percentage to indicate the viability of the start-up being successful under the given conditions.
Nickilese, who organized the team is a second year Mechatronics student. Asked what her passions are, she says “I love the ocean, music, and making art. I spend my free time falling off my bicycle, procrastinating, watching Studio C, drinking coffee, and making music.” This muso has a YouTube channel and as of last month she is on Spotify, Apple music, Deezer etc. “I really enjoy the programming side of things. So, when I saw there was a MATLAB competition, I immediately told Ryan and Nicane, and we entered.”
Nickilese says “Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Uber issues, the accommodation booking was incomplete, we got lost, load shedding, horrible bathrooms, and no coffee shops in sight. Instead of the promised pizzas they had to settle for Uber Eats. But despite this, we went on to program in the dark with cans of sprite and milkshakes as fuel.”
“We, (Nicane and I) tried object-orientated programming for the first time, which was very interesting to use in MATLAB. “says Nickilese.
“The highlight for us was, we got MATLAB Rubik’s cubes, socks, and Nicane got an orange MATLAB backpack to match his Eendrag (men’s student residence) heritage.”
“The speakers were very interesting – a professor spoke about his research involving measuring the movement of cheetahs and translating this to use in robotics” she says.
“The MATLAB competition was a great experience,” says second year Mechanical Engineering student, Nicane. “During the semester, I did not expect to use MATLAB past mathematical coding for my modules. But the competition really opened my eyes to the opportunities available in the working industry. It demonstrated the kind of real-world problems that businesses must solve as well as the problems that employees must face such as load shedding and other unexpected curveballs.”
Nicane who also has an on-off relationship with gym says “The MATLAB competition has made me think of Mechatronics as a possible option for my future. I went from thinking that I could not do much programming and that programming was hard, to learning quite a bit of information and enjoying the process of coding. I love learning random tricks that might not be useful but are cool to show others.”
“Some great memories were made during the weekend, including both the unfortunate events of load shedding and the enjoyment of being with the team” he says.
“The highlight for me was finding out the different ideas that the other teams came up with. Each idea was so unique and offered a functional way to solve various problems.”
The third member of the team, Ryan Hansen, a BSc student, formerly from KwaZulu Natal says he developed an unexpected love for programming after deciding to take it as an elective in his 1st year. He enjoys reading, hanging out with friends and as of recently, making music.
Asked about the competition, Ryan says “We did not expect to deal with so many hiccups. Thankfully, we found our groove as a team. From afternoon to late at night and then again in the early morning, we developed our concept, coded, created databases, and learned about new MATLAB functions and features along the way.”
“After intense A1’s and a relaxing holiday, we grew excited for the competition. After much prayer, and to our pleasant surprise, we came 2nd, the runner ups to another Stellenbosch team. GO MATIES! We left feeling accomplished and filled with team pride (and a fun score of MATLAB merch).”
Well done guys!!