Coding tournament for school kids to kick off on Mandela Day

Lebone Mano
By Lebone Mano, junior journalist
Johannesburg, 10 Jul 2020

On 18 July, Nelson Mandela Day, a BOATS virtual coding tournament will kick off with the aim of introducing coding concepts to school children and raising funds for a local conservation foundation.

BOATS is one of three educational coding games created by the Port Elizabeth-based dev house, GAMES powered by Tangibl. TANKS, RANGERS and BOATS all teach young children about the basics of coding, without the need for a computer. The games also raise awareness around social causes such as poaching and ocean conservation.

The Mandela Day tournament requires no previous coding experience and short WhatsApp videos will be used to guide participants through the competition. Learners progress through the game by answering multiple choice questions around marine pollution; COVID-19 centered questions have also been added to the game.

Prizes for the winners include free data, tablets and cash for learners and the schools with the best participation rate. For every learner that enters, R15 will be donated to the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds.

Using mainly the TANKS app, Professor Jean Greyling and his team at the Nelson Mandela University have reached over 20 000 learners across the country since 2017. The project has also received international recognition – Greyling was due to speak at UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week conference in March. The event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Because of the lockdown regulations, physical coding workshops can’t take place. Consequently, the team added features to BOATS which allow for virtual tournaments. Learners can thus participate from home and have their scores sent to our database,” says Greyling.

The first BOATS virtual tournament was held in May and saw 180 learners from 30 schools nationwide enter. R6 000 was raised for #coffee4heroes, an initiative to supply medical staff in Port Elizabeth with coffee as they battle the pandemic.

Matthew Ridgway is the principal of Alexander Road High School, also in PE. The school entered the highest number of participants in the May tournament.

“Exposing our learners to algorithm design and the problem solving process is essential for them to thrive," says Ridgway. "We are very grateful to everyone who was involved in the design and implementation of this tournament."

BOATS Mandela Day tournament takes place from 18-25 July.  To take part, players need to download the 'BOATS powered by Tangibl' app from Google Play Store.

Professor Jean Greyling can be reached on 083 554 4183 for the WhatsApp tutorials.