The prize winners at Innovate Durban’s Youth Innovation Challenge 2021 Awards.
The prize winners at Innovate Durban’s Youth Innovation Challenge 2021 Awards.

DUT’s Ubuntu Fibre team clinch first prize in Innovation Challenge 2021

By Zama Ngcoya Time of article published Nov 17, 2021

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DURBAN - Durban University of Technology’s (DUT) team Ubuntu Fibre took first prize in Innovate Durban’s Youth Innovation Challenge 2021 Awards.

The team impressed the judges with their development of an eco-friendly alternative for feminine sanitary wear.

Innovate Durban said the Youth Innovation Challenge 2021 kicked off in September with a workshop week supported by Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) champions and industry experts, followed by teams working on their solution and on their pitch.

DUT’s winning team is made up of three members, Muzi Mhlongo, Phumla Mnguni and Bhekabakubo Mhlongo, who all hail from Chesterville township.

Muzi, a Master of Applied Sciences degree in Biotechnology student at DUT is ecstatic about their victory.

“As Team Ubuntu Fibre we are super excited about this victory. It doesn't just end with winning the first prize, the response to our idea was major. Our idea was dominated with Sustainable Development goals because we see that the world is changing so we have new solutions to the problems we face such as as climate change and so forth,” said Muzi.

According to him, the team chose SDG number 9: Industry Innovation and Infrastructure, and number 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.

“Looking at sustainability, we decided to look at sanitary pads, the material that they use which consist of toxic chemicals. These chemicals often pollute our environment. We then came up and developed sanitary pads with non-toxic chemicals, with renewable strong absorption capacity. They are also biodegradable,” Muzi explained.

Mnguni, a third-year Child and Youth Care student, said she was thrilled about the win.

“Winning the competition was really surprising since there were different unique groups. It has been a very exciting and positive experience,” said Mnguni.

She further advised the youth who wish to start their own businesses to enter such a competition and be confident in their abilities. She also encouraged them to always have in depth and full information about their business.

DUT’s winning team is made up of three members - Muzi Mhlongo, Phumla Mnguni and Bhekabakubo Mhlongo, who all hail from the Chesterville township.

The triumphant trio did encounter some challenges during the production of their prototype.

“We did face some challenges with the prototype development as we did not have the necessary machines to do our end product accordingly. But we did process in a way that would enable us to do the prototype. We had a short period of time to develop something that needed machinery, testing and all the other elements of production but we were able to do it using our skills and available material,” said Muzi.

Fellow team member, who also happens to be Muzi’s older brother, Bhekabakubo, encouraged the youth to remain resilient in pursuit of their dreams.

“Anything is possible through hard work, effort and passion. We have to build on our talents and use our skills to succeed and leave a legacy for the future generations,” said Bhekabakubo.

Two other special categories were announced, in addition to the top 3 winners, namely the Zutari Student Excellence Award and the Zutari Women in Design Award.

The Zutari Student Excellence Award is a special award for a student or group for ‘Courage and Adversity’ and for epitomising the journey of the YIC. This was awarded to Team Green Corridors for displaying how they had grown during the competition from their first pitch to their final presentation and technical solution.

The Zutari Women in Design Award had specific criteria including the rate of engagement, enthusiasm, enquiring mind and positive attitude as well as continued engagement on platforms. The winner of this award was Nitasha Pillay from team Tagged AI.

Pillay, Jirah Moodley and Nathan Pillay of team Tagged AI from the University of KwaZulu-Natal took second prize for their idea. They developed a solution to promote child safety and prevent human trafficking using NFC technology.

In third place was team Green Corridors - Sphesihle Msomi, Mandisa Dlamini and Aseza Sibutha - from the Mangosuthu University of Technology, who developed a public transport app that helps promote safe use of public transport for local users and tourists.

Innovate Durban (RF) NPC is a registered non-profit company established in 2017 as a special purpose vehicle by the eThekwini Municipality in support of innovation, innovators and innovation ecosystem through programmes, research and capacity building skills development.

Innovate Durban said it was grateful for the support and partnerships with eThekwini Municipality, Adams& Adams, The Domino Foundation and Zutari.


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