Mamelodi learners enjoy AI workshop

Posted on February 23, 2024

The University of Pretoria’s Pre-University Academy (UP-PUA) recently collaborated with Hong Kong Polytechnic University (HKPU) to present an artificial intelligence (AI) pose recognition workshop to 99 learners from Mamelodi, Pretoria.

The workshop was a joint initiative of UP’s Department of Computing and HKPU’s Service-Learning and Leadership Office, and aimed to promote literacy in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects among local youth.

This was the fifth project that the HKPU presented with the UP-PUA and learners from Mamelodi, but the first in-person event. The previous four projects were conducted virtually. The programme, which centred on an AI pose recognition workshop, was presented by 30 HKPU students, with UP alumni Clement Mathebula, Onismo Mashinini and Bryce van de Kraats assisting.

Dr Martina Jordaan, Head of Community Engagement Research and Postgraduate Studies on UP’s Mamelodi campus, said HKPU initiated the project, and that it is part of an ongoing collaboration between the institution and UP.

“The programme ran over six days, during which the learners were introduced to various aspects of artificial intelligence,” she explained. “On the last day, we held a competition where the learners had to demonstrate that they could implement their machine learning and block programming knowledge. The competition also included an exercise that made use of one of the most common forms of Chinese qigong. We are proud to be part of this collaborative effort to educate youth and promote STEM literacy. We hope that this initiative will inspire and encourage more students to pursue careers in STEM-related fields.”

Learner feedback revealed just how much of an impact the project had on them.

“It was a pleasant journey for me,” said Buang Busang, a Grade 12 learner from Tsaka Thabo Secondary School who attended all five of the projects with HKPU. “The programme helped me believe that I can pursue a career in information technology. I believe that the programme will help me achieve my goals.”

Alexander Ramjiawan of Glen High School said: “I have had a exhilarating and informative experience with the programme thus far. I've met people that I've become close friends with, both local and foreign, and have learnt so much concerning programming and artificial intelligence.”

UP alumnus Mathebula said: “The Hong Kong project was very insightful and enlightening. It showed great capacity to teach and develop career paths. It created a space of culture exchange and technological advancement for both HKPU students and learners in the Mamelodi community.”

Dr Jordaan said the face-to-face project had created additional opportunities to grow and develop the relationship between the UP-PUA and HKUP, and UP’s Mamelodi campus.

“It was much better for the students and learners to work on the project in a face-to-face setting. The learners seemed to enjoy interacting with the students, and it helped foster a strong bond between them."

The ongoing collaboration with HKPU is valuable not only to UP, but to learners in and around Mamelodi, Dr Jordaan added.

“We look forward to maintaining and growing this partnership so that UP can continue to provide learning opportunities to members of the communities in which we live and work.”

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