Wits University together with the Carl and Emily Fuchs Foundation and the Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) have issued a call to startups with innovative ideas that could help disabled students navigate the university’s campus.

The Wits Campus Personal Navigator Challenge is the first of four digital innovation challenges that will be held annually. This particular challenge is centred around finding new ways to help those with visual and physical disabilities navigate the Wits campus.

The university’s Disability Rights Unit assists some 1 000 students and staff with disabilities and director of the JCSE Barry Dwolatzky says the challenge for startups will be to safely assist these individuals keeping in mind that GPS systems are often times inaccurate.

“The system could be a simple standalone device that attaches to a walking cane or wheelchair or be a wearable device,” says Dwolatzky.

“This unique navigation system may work independently or in conjunction with relevant existing or future systems (software, apps, maps, etc.) to provide visual or audible directions and information to the student.”

Proposed systems can also make use of sensors placed around the campus says Dwolatzky.

What’s up for grabs?

The challenge is open to all startups but only 100 will be chosen to participate in a briefing session and weekend-long hackathon.

At the end of the hackathon startups will have 10 minutes to pitch their ideas and only 10 will progress to the next round.

Those 10 startups will receive a three month membership in the Tshimologong Precinct incubation programme, a mentor as well as access to an array of facilities, advisers and resources.

After these three months the entrants will need to demonstrate a prototype to a panel of judges and three winners will be chosen.

These three winners will receive a 7 month membership in the Tshimologong Precinct incubation programme. One startup from this trio will be able to send two members to one of Tshimologong Precinct’s international partner hubs in Canada, USA, Netherlands, UK and India.

This will give that startup further opportunity to refine its business model.

Applications are open now and close on 3rd March so there’s still time to enter your startup. Before you enter we recommend checking the terms and conditions of the challenge as one member of the team must reside in the Greater Johannesburg area.

We’re excited to see what comes of this challenge and what startups will appear to answer the call. Good luck to all.