Johan Nel, Eben du Toit and Gustav du Preez were named as the winners in the Gauteng leg of the BlackBerry Mobile Application Development (MAD) Challenge 2013 held at the BlackBerry apps lab at the University of Pretoria. They emerged in first place from 63 learners from 18 of Gauteng Schools.
The MAD Challenge 2013 is aimed at Grade 11 or 12 learners with a keen interest in technology – specifically mobile application development. It gave them the challenge of creating their own mobile applications in just 10 weeks.

The challenge is hosted by the Institute for e-skills human capacity development’s Creative New Media Industries CoLab in Gauteng and forms part of the Department of Communication’s drive to address the e-skills shortage, stimulate interest in ICT, develop entrepreneurs and to create a platform for innovation within the country.

The aim of the MAD Challenge is to encourage learners to embrace the career choices and entrepreneurial potential of the ICT industry. Learners were selected to take part in the competition based on their individual application forms and academic performance.

The learners represented a wide range of demographics; representing schools as diverse as Abbotts College; Afrikaans Hoër Seunskool; Afrikaanse Hoër Meisieskool, Bokgoni, Britsih International Distance College, Cornerstone College, Hoërskool Garsfontein, Laudium, Lehlabile, Die Hoërskool Menlopark, Pretoria Boys High, Pretoria Girls High, Pretoria Secondary School, The Glen High School, The President’s Award, Hoërskool Waterkloof and Die Wilgers Hoërskool.

The school learners were guided through the basics of BlackBerry application development during six two-hour tutorials on Friday afternoons. They were then sent off to create their own apps, resulting in entries of an exceptionally high standard. More than 14 apps were completed and submitted this year.

The applications were judged on the creativity and entrepreneurial content of the idea behind the app, usability, functionality, completeness, business value motivation, and programming skill. This year’s winners received BlackBerry Z10 smartphones and BlackBerry PlayBook tablets in recognition of their achievements.

The first prize went to three learners. Johan Nel from Hoërskool Garsfontein was awarded first prize for his G4ming_RSA app, which keeps you up to date with the latest news and happenings concerning the world of games and technology.

The first place was shared by Eben du Toit from Afrikaans Hoër Seunskool and Gustav du Preez from Abbotts College for their Flexi app, which is a calculator that can also be used to keep track of your work time and overtime.

Other winners include:
* Third place – Fanisa Mlangeni and Kamogelo Ramakgadi from Pretoria High School for Girls for their Drivers Guide app;
* Fourth place – Wian Crous from Afrikaans Hoër Seunskool for his Mr Delivery app; and
* Fifth place – Marco Linde, form Afrikaans Hoër Seunskool for his Panic Button app.

“What I enjoyed most about the challenge was the amount of knowledge I gained in making this application,” says Du Toit. “The knowledge I gained is priceless and worth even more than being one of the winners. The idea behind our Flexi app was to try and make life easier and we are excited to present the app to companies to actually try it in the business world.”

Gustav du Preez who helped to develop the Flexi app adds: “Being exposed to all the different opportunities that exist was my favourite part of the challenge. I realised that developing apps could be an exciting career opportunity, as there is a real demand for local and quality applications.”

“I enjoyed the challenge and it was exciting to learn how to programme and build mobile applications,” says Nel, who developed the G4ming_RSA app. “I definitely plan to continue programming.”

The BlackBerry apps labs at the University of Pretoria, at Jozihub and at Bandwidth Barn in Cape Town form part of BlackBerry’s strategy to nurture a healthy BlackBerry developer ecosystem in the country.

The facilities provide local developers, including students, start-ups, entrepreneurs and others with development, marketing, sales and training resources to help them make their apps commercially successful.

The winners of the Western Cape leg of the BlackBerry MAD Challenge will be announced on 25 October 2013.