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KZN entrepreneur creates app to help students with maths

DURBAN - A University of KwaZulu-Natal Computer Science student has developed a mobile app to help students who struggle with mathematics.

Amobile  app developed by a final year University of KwaZulu-Natal computer science student aims to make maths  free and accessible to students from various socio-economic backgrounds.

After coming out as a first runner-up in the Inkunz’isematholeni Youth in Competition, 25-year-old Lloyd Gordon worked on establishing his mathematics Web-based app, Open Omnia. The application aims to assist students who struggle with mathematics to better understand the subject by breaking down the formulas and providing step-by-step illustrations for mathematical equations.

Gordon is now working to extend the Web-based programme into an app for smartphones and tablets, to enable greater accessibility to a larger group of people.

“The app aims to make high-quality maths education free and accessible to students from various socio-economic backgrounds. We target late high school grades and university-level maths problems. My goal is to grow Open Omnia to the point that it is nationally recognised, for the programme to help a significant number of students,” explains Gordon.

Gordon worked on the back-end programming of Open Omnia, which is hosted on a Google Cloud Platform. Developed using artificial intelligence technology, the app allows users to type in a mathematical problem and the service returns a step-by-step solution to the problem. It is available free to students from different walks of life.

“I received some help from Dr F Chirove from the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He requested a few of his students to test the app and we received some feedback on it, so I also got to fix the small errors on the app. I also used a few open source libraries to help with things like plotting graphs and rendering pages faster.”

Gordon was shortlisted from 198 entries to emerge as the first runner-up in the 2017 Inkunz’isematholeni Youth in Business Competition. The young innovator took home a R50 000 marketing voucher to help market his innovation.

Spearheaded by Ithala Development Finance Corporation, Inkunz’isematholeni attracts youth with innovative and sustainable business concepts and provides incubation and start-up in their journey to becoming seasoned entrepreneurs.

When asked if he thinks there is enough support for young and aspiring entrepreneurs such as himself in SA, Gordon enthusiastically responds: “Definitely, but as young people we expect things to happen instantly. However, things take time and we just need to keep working while waiting for that big break.

“I am honoured and grateful to Ithala for believing in my invention and for the financial assistance. I am excited about what the future holds for Open Omnia,” he concludes.

Over the past three years, Ithala has disbursed R878 600 000 to nearly 700 businesses, resulting in over 8 000 jobs being created.

The Open Omnia mobile app is scheduled for launch in April 2018

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