Wits students win an international award


By Nozipho Dlamini

A team of three students from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) have won an international award for their innovation in technology.

David Vannucci, Teddy Mwakabaga and Rolan Christian from the University’s School of Electrical and Information Engineering received a silver medal at the SIMagine awards in Barcelona, for their adaptation of the local Morabaraba game to a mobile phone game called Mobiraba(tm).

The SIMagine awards are held annually as part of the World 3GSM International Software conference in Barcelona.

The trio beat the Chinese team which came in third, while the first prize went to a team from Poland.

According to their supervisor Barry Dwolatzky, their innovation is a cellphone based version of the game Morabaraba played by millions of people in Africa and around the world.

"Mobiraba(tm) the cell-phone game was tested at the 2006 National Morabarana Trials and received excellent reviews from experts,' said Prof Dwolatzky.

The game allows players to compete online in Morabaraba.

Players are able to log on to a game server using a mobile phone and can select either of the two options.

The first is a quick game, in which case they would be automatically matched up with another quick game player of a similar level, or opt for an organised game, in which case an invitation message is sent to the chosen opponent.

The online server maintains the results of all the players, as well as rankings and a record of each game.

Prof Dwolatzky said the invention could be used for the development of Morabaraba, which was played by over 16-million people in South Africa, as it would be possible to organise tournaments "online" for national rankings.

"Players could play for communities and clubs in online Mobiraba(tm) Forums and purchase additional game play credits, by simply sending an SMS to a premium rated number,' he said.

The SIMagine competition is sponsored by Gemalto, one of the largest producers of SIM cards in the world and aims to stimulate the development of java-based SIM applications.

The competition drew more than 315 entries from companies and universities around the world, of which only eight were selected as finalists.

"This is an honour for the School of Electrical and Information Engineering, the university, South Africa and the students.

"They managed to beat competitors from countries with advanced software development and developed information systems,' he said.

He further thanked the cellular phone company Vodacom for providing support and material to the students.