An innovative computer program that allows football stadium managers to predict the behaviour of crowds has won a University of Johannesburg student a place in the finals of a global technology competition in Poland next year.

Kieran Ekron beat off the challenge of more than 2 460 computer programming students from across the country to win the South African leg of the Imagine Cup 2009, a Microsoft-sponsored technology competition which pits the world’s best student programmers against each other.
Ekron’s Sim Stadium application, which will provide stadium managers and designers critical information about potential problems in stadium designs – such as areas with a high degree of pedestrian congestion – was adjudged the best entry in the final of the competition at the Silverstar Casino this week.
Sim Stadium is a research project aimed at simulating the dynamics of a football stadium before, during and after a game. The focus of the project is on modeling the behaviour of the spectators at a football stadium. Spectator behaviours – such as finding the right seat, buying refreshments and going to the bathroom – can all be modeled.
The other big winners at the Imagine Cup both came from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Team Abantu Developaz won the Development category with their project EASy (Education Assist System) – a web site that helps learners and teachers prepare their daily academic activities up until the final exams.
Team Solo won the Game Design & Development category with Engage – a multiplayer arcade space shooter game that supports up to four players. Engage can be played on both a Windows PC and XBox platforms across a local area network (LAN) or the internet.
Ekron will go on to represent South Africa at the global Imagine Cup finals in Warsaw in July 2010.
Now in its eighth year, the Imagine Cup challenges the world’s best student programmers to create applications to solve real-world problems. More than 200 000 students from 100 countries entered the competition in 2009.
The head of Microsoft’s developer and platform team, Clifford de Wit, says the judges had been “blown away” by the high calibre of the projects and the levels of innovation displayed.
“These represent the next generation of technology and business leaders in South Africa. Their creativity and innovation demonstrates how technology can make a difference in peoples’ lives in the way we think, work and communicate,” says De Wit.
“Students are the ones who get to engage with technology and make it real for us. Those aspiring to become technology leaders need to continue getting their hands dirty playing with technology and pushing the boundaries of innovation.”