Soliyana Gizaw Hunde is the coding champion for this year’s annual AfriCANCode Challenge. The 10-year old attributes her win to her love for Math and Science that inspired her to develop a fun and engaging way to practice Math and raise awareness of COVID-19 related health protocols.
The AfriCANcode Challenge was introduced after the 2020 SAP Africa Code Week program shifted to an all-virtual format in the wake of the global pandemic. This year’s competition challenged youth aged 8 to 16 to develop a game using the Scratch coding language to reimagine school and education and answer the question How will your tech change the future of education?
Participants from 22 countries made it to the final round of the competition, and the winner was announced in early this year. All of the top three winners were girls, with Soliyana emerging overall winner at a virtual prize-giving ceremony in February.
Speaking on her win, Soliyana said, “Being part of the AfriCANCode Challenge has been fun, and winning the national and overall competition was very exciting. It has motivated me to do more and dream big.”
Soliyana says she was inspired to learn coding after seeing the projects her cousin, a software engineering student at one of the local state universities, was doing. “When I was eight, my cousin helped me take a short coding training course at a local centre. Since then, I have watched instructional videos on YouTube, and I have been motivated to keep practicing,” she explained.
After the pandemic forced the Ethiopian government to close schools, Soliyana decided to apply her coding skills in service of her community by participating in the AfriCANCode Challenge.
“When we started staying at home due to the pandemic, I heard how it was affecting people in our community and what we could do to protect ourselves and our loved ones. I decided to develop my Mathstainment game to create awareness about COVID-19 and offer a simple and fun way to practice maths,” Soliyana explained.
Mathstainment, the educational game developed by Soliyana, was built using the Scratch programming language. The game asks a series of Math questions that leads a character on the screen ever closer to personal protective equipment (PPE) for each correct answer. After a few incorrect answers, the player has to start over. Maths questions are posed at varying difficulty levels, ranging from ‘Easy’ to ‘Difficult’.
Alexandra van der Ploeg, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at SAP, says Soliyana and her fellow participants at this year’s AfriCANCode Challenge are inspirations to youth across the continent. “The innovation and community-minded spirit displayed by this year’s participants point to a bright future for Africa’s citizens. It is also hugely encouraging to see the high ratio of female participants, whose ingenuity saw all three top place finishes claimed by girls.”
She further pointed out to progress over the past few years with expanding access to coding teaching and digital literacy opportunities for the continent’s youth.