Students in the Microsoft running

23 November 2009

Unearthing new talentUnearthing new talent: (From left) Kopo Masome, Prof Jean-Paul van Belle, Amaanullah Parker, Jeandre de Klerk, Craig Byren, Nicole Butcher, Kim Westcott and Prof Derek Smith at the Department of Information Systems showcase.

The unEarthed team has won the ViaData Shield, a floating trophy for the best systems-development project, awarded by the Department of Information Systems in its annual showcase of third-year projects.

The team - made up of Nicole Butcher, Jeandre de Klerk, Kopo Masome, Amaanullah Parker and Kim Westcott - took the honours for the advanced business management system they developed for local design firm Mielie Handcrafted Products, which turns reclaimed materials into functional works of art.

With the trophy also comes the opportunity to represent UCT in the national qualifying round of the international Microsoft Imagine Cup.

"The award (and getting your name on the shield) is held in high regard, and is something all of the information systems students strive to achieve," says the department's Professor Derek Smith.

Not only does the project contribute towards a large chunk of the students' year marks, but it also calls on a gamut of skills - problem-solving, teamwork, presentation - in the design and implementation of very complex software, notes Craig Byren, MD of sponsors ViaData, a software development company.

"This is what they'll face when they enter the working environment, above and beyond needing their academic skills," says Byren.

Smith echoes that alert.

"It's a tough business, but there is a desperate need for good people with very solid training," he says. "Without these graduates, our ability to develop innovations that impact on modern business systems, like ViaData's business systems engine, will not flourish."

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