New Brighton pupil cleans up in coding contest

Newell High School's Simamnkele Dekeda is the overall winner of the first virtual BOATS competition
HOOKED ON IT: Newell High School's Simamnkele Dekeda is the overall winner of the first virtual BOATS competition

A 14-year-old New Brighton pupil has been named the overall winner of a newly launched virtual coding tournament.

Simamnkele Dekeda of Newell High School beat 128 other pupils from 30 schools to take the title.

The pupils from schools across the Eastern Cape were the first to ride on the virtual wave of BOATS, a coding game aimed at educating youngsters about marine plastic pollution.

Simamnkele won a two-gig data bundle.

“Winning the tournament has made me and my mother so proud, and I have now become more interested in getting involved in more tournaments like this,” he said.  

“It wasn’t just fun — I learnt much about plastic and ocean pollution.

“I wish to teach my peers more about pollution too,” Simamnkele  said.

The grade 9 pupil was introduced to the game in 2019 by Nelson Mandela University associate professor Jean Greyling, who heads the tournament.

Simamnkele was among pupils from different schools who were invited by Greyling to take part in a smaller BOATS tournament at the NMU Missionvale campus during Marine Week in October.

The youngster also won that competition, which sparked his interest in coding.

The virtual tournament was launched in May, with all communication sent to participants via WhatsApp.

“I explained to my mother that I was in a competition, so she wouldn’t be bothered by me being on my phone.

“She understood and bought me data to make sure I am always connected,” Simamnkele said.

The competitions have also sparked his interest in IT, he said.

“Initially I wanted to become a mechanical engineer when I grow up, because I have always been curious when I saw things like cars being fixed.

“I later learnt that people who do that are engineers and then I came to understand that there are different kinds of engineering, because my sister is a civil engineer in East London.

“However, when I started learning coding through these games, I became interested in IT, so that I can be the one coding in order for gadgets to operate certain functions,” he said.

The virtual tournament’s winning school was Alexander Road High, which was rewarded with R4,000.

The school’s IT teacher, Leanda Oosthuizen, said the funds would be used to buy food parcels for pupils in need.

Greyling said they had to add features that would allow for virtual tournaments in the coding game.

“Since our normal interactive coding workshops are not possible now, I am thrilled that this virtual tournament was such a success.

“It paves the way for many more during this time and we will definitely go more national in the near future.

“Teachers and learners are very excited that everyone could enjoy some constructive educational fun during these abnormal, tense times,” Greyling said.

He said his team was working on launch a coding app similar to BOATS, which schools could use to keep pupils aware of Covid-19 health issues in a fun way.

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