UKZN students take second place at 2021 Youth Innovation Challenge

The challenge was run by Innovate Durban, under the theme Response to Crisis, the competition saw 60 participants and 23 teams from across KZN.

Nitasha Pillay, Nathan Pillay, and Jirah Moodley from team Tagged AI scooped second place at the Youth Innovation Challenge Awards hosted at the Botanical Gardens. Picture: Innovate Durban

Published Nov 14, 2021


DURBAN - A group of young and talented University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) students secured second place in the 2021 Youth Innovation Challenge (YIC).

The challenge was run by Innovate Durban, under the theme Response to Crisis, and saw 60 participants and 23 teams from across KZN.

Team UKZN placed its focus on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 11, which is about sustainable cities and communities.

Using their own technology, participants Nitasha Pillay, Jirah Moodley and Nathan Pillay, who formed team Tagged Artificial Intelligence (AI), developed a solution aimed at the promotion of child safety and prevention of human trafficking .

The team walked away with the cash prize of R25 000 and will be receiving 12 months of support and assistance from Innovate Durban for upgrading and launching their solution. In addition, Nitasha received the Zutari Women in Design Award for her “rate of engagement, enthusiasm, enquiring mind and positive attitude as well as continued engagement on platforms” in the YIC.

Nitasha, a third-year BCom Marketing and Information Systems student, said she was inspired to enter the competition as she wanted to change the world and inspire others along the way.

The project manager at Enactus UKZN, a UKZN Peer Academic Mentor and Youth Ambassador for Women in Tech South Africa, acknowledges technology as a powerful instrument in modern society.

“From the time I was little I would always participate in challenges that would require me to think outside the box. When I was in Grade 7, I participated in the First Lego League robotics competition. I’ve always had an interest in and heart for innovation and making an impact through my work. I believe that when you commit your work to God, he establishes your thoughts and vision,” said Nitasha.

Final-year Computer Science student and Tagged AI leader Moodley encouraged the active involvement of the youth in the creation of solutions to challenges.

“The youth of South Africa are the future of the country. If all youth can engage in innovative and creative thinking to solve problems faced by South Africa, then the only way for South Africa to go is up! South Africa will have a brighter and more successful future,” said Moodley.

First-year BSc Computer Science student Nathan, who is Nitasha’s brother, joined the YIC as a way to challenge himself.

“I enjoy embracing new adventures- especially if it’s tech-related. Challenge yourself to do better and be better every day. Remember, growth starts with a decision to move beyond your present circumstances,” said Nathan.

As part of the challenge, in September the team attended a workshop during the semester break where they were taught about design thinking, intellectual property, the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals, and solution development. Moodley and Nitasha also won prizes at the workshop’s Question and Answer session.

Innovative Durban (RF) NPC is a registered non-profit company set up in 2017 as a purpose vehicle by eThekwini Municipality to support innovation ecosystem and innovators through programmes, research, capacity building and skills development.

The Youth Innovative Challenge (YIC) is the flagship programme of Innovate Durban and encourages the youth to be innovative in finding solutions for challenges faced by communities and businesses.

The Durban University of Technology team took first place for developing eco-friendly alternatives to feminine sanitary wear and hygiene, while Mangosuthu University of Technology students were placed third for developing a public transport app to promote the safe use of public transport for local users and tourists.