Space odyssey: One giant leap for SA

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Copy of PN Afroanuat SUPPLIED Mandla Maseko, left, of Mabopane, who won a trip to space in 2015, with Sipho Kobue of Ga-Rankuwa, who was one of three winners in the International Space Apps Challenge.

Pretoria - Two township men are taking over space. First it was Mandla Maseko from Mabopane who won a trip to space in 2015 after completing the Axe Apollo Space Academy competition.

Now 27-year-old Sipho Kobue from Zone 2 in Ga-Rankuwa, who grew up without a computer, is one of the winners in the International Space Apps Challenge.

“When I was younger I knew nothing about IT because most township schools do not have computers for pupils,” he said.

Kobue, a software engineering student from the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), said his cousin used to allow him to play on his computer during school holidays.

Kobue and his team-mate Diamond Mubarak, of Sunnyside, were tasked with creating an application that demonstrated the best use of data, for example through using satellite images taken from space.

The competition took place on April 11 and 12 and the team had only 48 hours in which to complete their application. They won the section for the best use of data and each pocketed R2 500.

“It feels extra marvellous to have won. We had so little time, but we managed to come up with something,” he said.

He also won second place at the 2013 International Space Apps Challenge.

Kobue and Mubarak designed an application called Earthquiz that asks the user questions about different places on Earth.

The user is given satellite images and has to answer questions such as, “Where was this picture taken?”, “Which prominent feature are you looking at?” or “What natural disaster occurred here?”

Users can play the game online or on their mobile phones if they have an internet connection.

The questions are divided into sections including locations, geology and weather. After answering the question, the user is shown the correct answer with a brief description of the image. For every correct answer, points are awarded.

There are three levels: easy, intermediate and advanced.

The application can also be linked to social media where users can invite others to play.

Kobue developed his passion for technology while he was at high school and is planning to start his own software company soon.

“I have hopes of one day using my experience in software engineering as a way to incorporate IT services into underdeveloped communities such as townships and rural areas,” he said.

He is working on a taxi solution product at the moment which is called Afta Robot.

“Afta Robot is a great idea, because it focuses on introducing the taxi industry to IT systems and data management using mobile devices to help locate taxis at the rank, show the routes they intend to take and allow commuters to highlight their own location, thereby creating better engagement within the industry.

“This system is set to improve the overall standard of the taxi industry. It won’t only help the taxi industry, but members of the surrounding community too,” he said.

Speaking of Maseko’s forthcoming trip to space, Kobue said he was glad to see “one of the guys from the township” reaching great heights. - Pretoria News

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