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DUT Ninjas win Makerthon

Written by: Sphelele Ngubane

Six KwaZulu-Natal students have invented a wearable device to help curb the spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in the workplace.

The students who are studying towards an information and communications technology (ICT) qualification at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), are called DUT Ninjas after building a prototype with ultrasonic sensors that measure the distance between two objects. If a person is less than one metre away from another, the device beeps.

It will also have a unique number, assigned to the employee wearing iDUT Ninjas Andile Chonco, Mpendulo Xulu, Nkosinathi Mkhonto, Mbali Nongalo, Sanele Doyisa and Fanie Ndlovu.t, and will record every other device it connects to. This will ensure efficient contact tracing.

This device was built in less than 12 hours at a recent Makerthon held at the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone Techno Hub.

The Makerthon, an innovation challenge, provided innovators, marketers and developers with an opportunity to identify open source, low-tech and inexpensive hardware to produce up-to-date technologies. It was organised by the Department of
Communications and Digital Technologies, AlgoAtWork Robotics and the National ICT Youth Council.

The DUT Ninjas demonstrated their product to government representatives and judges.

Group leader Fanie Ndlovu says they wanted to solve COVID-19 problems in the workplace, especially that of its distancing. “The device will also be equipped with a pulse and temperature sensor, which will check an employee’s heart rate and temperature in real time. It will also be used beyond COVID-19, to monitor other diseases.”

Ndlovu says the team won because of its ability to identify a problem, present it clearly and design a demo in less than 12 hours.

Team member Andile Chonco says they knew nothing about electronic components and the Makerthon gave them an opportunity to learn. Another team member, Mpendulo Xulu, says they enjoyed the experience and competed against the best. “Our leader advised us to enjoy ourselves. Being champions was a surprise.”

“The competition was challenging. We had to identify problems faced by Richards Bay industries and try to fix them using robotics. I am not used to this, as I am an ICT student who solves problems using web applications,” says team member Mbali Nongalo.

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