Accenture hosted this weekend the STEM Hackathon for learners from Alexandra, Diepsloot and Olievenhoutbosch this weekend, enabling them to visualise the data used in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum in a practical manner.

The Hackathon stimulated learners’ interest in STEM careers and the experience will prepare them for the 4th Industrial Revolution economy.

The hackathon accommodated 45 learners who were split into six groups comprising teams of between seven and eight learners. It was designed to impart new technical skills on learners from disadvantaged communities to boost their chances of future employment and meaningfully participate in the future township economy. The full-day event took place at Rosebank on 20 July.

We wanted to honour the legacy of Nelson Mandela by hosting an event that is not only a fun and enjoyable day out for learners from disadvantaged communities, but also impart useful, practical skills in order to prepare them for the 4th Industrial Revolution and boost their employability,” says Khethiwe Nkuna, head of corporate citizenship and inclusion, and diversity lead for Accenture in Africa.

“It is often said that a large percentage of learners starting school today will one day fill jobs that do not yet exist. We believe that by imparting greater technical skills on learners and instilling the desire of learning math and science skills, we can better prepare our youth for an increasingly digital future.”

Statistics South Africa’s unemployment data for the first quarter of 2019 showed that youth aged 15 to 24 years are the most vulnerable in the domestic labour market as the unemployment rate among this demographic cohort was 55,2%, far above the national jobless rate of 27,6% for the same period. Even among graduates in this age group, the unemployment rate was still a massive 31%.

One of the reasons for South Africa’s disproportionately high youth unemployment rate is the dearth of math and science skills, particularly among the youth. South Africa has consistently ranked at or near the bottom in math and science education competitive surveys by the World Economic Forum or the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

“South Africa needs to improve its competitiveness in math and science education and the starting point is to foster greater interest in technical education among our youth,” says Nkuna. “Our hope is that Accenture’s STEM Activity Hackathon will go some way towards instilling a love of math and science in young learners, who will one day go on to be the leaders of tomorrow.”

At the Accenture’s Hackathon, learners in the first three groups were tasked with building a telegraph out of everyday objects to reinforce their understanding of electrical energy and its role in communications. They then used a customised workbook to send and receive information in Morse code using their telegraph.

The remaining three groups built robotic models from cardboard and straws to understand the anatomy and biomechanics of the human hand. Learners conducted trials visualizing data in Excel to generate new ideas for improving the performance of their robotic models. Winning teams were selected and awarded medals during the prize-giving at the end of the day.