Call to help disabled students navigate Wits

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Professor Barry Dwolatzky, director of the JCSE.
Professor Barry Dwolatzky, director of the JCSE.

Wits University is calling on developers and entrepreneurs with innovative ideas on how to solve the Wits Campus Personal Navigator Challenge, to submit their entries before 3 March 2017.

The Challenge is the first in a series of four annual digital innovation challenges led by the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) at Wits University, sponsored by the Carl and Emily Fuchs Foundation (CEFF).

According to JCSE, participants are required to create innovative ways to assist students with visual and physical disabilities to independently navigate their way around the Wits Campus, by

developing a 'personal navigator' system to help guide them from one campus location to another. The system should be able to safely guide a visually impaired or a physically impaired student by using predefined safe accessible routes.

Professor Barry Dwolatzky, director of the JCSE, says the challenge for developers and innovators will be to create a system that safely guides students between locations, bearing in mind the well documented inaccuracies of commercially available GPS systems.

"The system could be a simple standalone device that attaches to a walking cane or wheelchair or be a wearable device. This unique navigation system may work independently or in conjunction with relevant existing or future systems (software, apps, maps, etc.) to provide visual or audible directions and information to the student. To do this the proposed system might also use multiple sensors installed at key points on campus which will provide location information and alerts to a base unit installed on a walking cane, wheelchair or wearable device," Dwolatzky says.

Apart from coming up with an innovative solution those entering the challenge will be assisted in turning their idea into a viable start-up.

The Wits Campus Personal Navigator Challenge will see approximately 100 aspiring digital entrepreneurs benefit from further training and the opportunity to participate in a weekend-long hackathon. Following this, the top ten entrants will each be given three months' membership in the Tshimologong Precinct incubation programme, and the top three an additional seven months' membership. In addition, one start-up in will spend four weeks at one of the Tshimologong Precinct's international partner hubs located in Canada, USA, Netherlands, UK or India.

"This initiative will encourage young developers to refine their skills in location technology while also benefiting their fellow students and the greater University community and we encourage aspiring digital entrepreneurs not to miss out on this great opportunity," concludes Dwolatzky.

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