R100 000 up for grabs in SA coding competition

A competition seeks to encourage SA developers to build AI space invader type bots. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
A competition seeks to encourage SA developers to build AI space invader type bots. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - The fourth instalment of a coding competition dubbed the R100K Challenge is set to test local software developers' skills in building an artificial intelligence player or bot.

"We are really excited for what this year's challenge will bring, and this is set to be our biggest R100K Challenge yet. We are sure that our carefully selected 2015 Space Invaders theme will inspire innovative and creative ideas from all entrants," said Tim Kroon, general manager of Resourcing at Entelect, sponsors of the competition.

The competition will focus on student skills, but will still be divided into advanced and beginner pools to ensure a more level playing field.

"We invite all students and school-goers to take part, and test their theoretic knowledge on a practical platform - not only is this a great opportunity to enjoy a challenging gaming experience and network with some of the best South Africa has to offer in the field, but you could be the next winner," said Kroon.

Bots or AI players have to be designed to outsmart competitors, allowing developers to progress to subsequent rounds.

IT opportunities

"Each entrant's bot will need to be designed specifically to outsmart and outplay their opponents, and only the most intelligent, effective and innovative bots will survive and make it into the semi-finals for our advanced pool," said Kroon.

Participation in the competition is intended to help local developers hone their skills to help with the likes of producing more compelling content for smartphones.

Kroon said that IT professionals in large corporates often feel stifled because of relatively few opportunities to explore their creativity.

"In SA, the large majority of our software work happens in corporate IT departments which are predominantly out-of-sync with the modern software engineer's needs. This is why software developers are attracted by smaller 'development houses' where the culture is built around technology and innovation."

Those with skills are usually recruited by multinational companies to work on projects that often take them out of the country, resulting in a "brain drain" of critical software expertise.

"I think companies need to start embracing the culture of the software engineer and adapting their environments to keep them inspired if they want to compete with international markets like the US and Europe," Kroon argued.

Prizes

The R100K Challenge offers a beginner pool prize of R50 000 and an advanced prize of R100 000 that will be decided in September this year, following a knock-out competition phase.

Entrants for bot submission are open on the website and Entelect has partnered with NAG and Sony Mobile this year.

Kroon said that there will be mobile phone prizes up for grabs.

"We are pleased to announce that Sony Mobile have come on board as this year's product sponsor for the Entelect R100K Challenge and will be providing a host of fantastic prizes from their latest Xperia range."

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