February 7, 2017

Wits Campus Personal Navigator Challenge


The Challenge

Wits University’s Disability Rights Unit (DRU) assists over 1000 students and staff with a broad range of disabilities. Through the DRU, Wits has led the way amongst South African universities in making a broad range of university degrees accessible to disabled students.

About a third of those registered with the DRU are physically or visually impaired. While Wits University’s campuses meet very high standards of accessibility for those with disabilities, it remains difficult for some disabled students to navigate around Wits.

The Wits Campus Personal Navigator Challenge aims to develop innovative systems that will increase the independence of students with visual and physical disabilities by providing them with a “personal navigator” around Wits’ vast campuses. The system should be able to safely guide a visually impaired or a physically impaired student from one location to another by using predefined safe accessible routes. The inaccuracy of commercially available GPS navigation systems is well documented and need to be augmented.

 The system could be a simple standalone device that attaches to a walking cane or wheelchair or be a wearable device (e.g. wristband). This unique navigation system may work independently or in conjunction with relevant existing and/or future systems (software, apps, maps, etc.) to provide visual/audible directions and information to the student. To do this the proposed system might use multiple sensors installed at key points on campus which will provide location information and alerts to the base unit installed on a walking cane/ wheelchair/wearable device.

 In addition, it might be possible to add on to the extensive Google Maps of the Wits campuses that already exist and develop the system further to allow broader use by the rest of the University community.

Apart from coming up with an innovative solution those entering the challenge will be assisted in turning their idea into a viable start-up.

How it works

  1. Submit an entry: If you have an innovative idea of how you could solve the Wits Campus Personal Navigator Challenge, complete the entry form via the link below and upload a 2-minute video clip telling us about yourself, your team and your idea. 
  2. Briefing session: The top 100 entries will be selected and will be invited to a 4-hour Briefing Session at Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Braamfontein Johannesburg. At the Briefing Session entrants will be given additional information by the Wits Disability Rights Unit. Useful technical information will also be presented by experts in various fields. Part of the session will also cover tips on “how to refine an idea” and “how to prepare a pitch”.
  3. Hackathon and Pitching session: The top 100 entrants will be invited to participate in a weekend-long Hackathon. They will be guided through the process of developing a conceptual prototype and a business model canvas. At the end of the Hackathon each entrant will present a 10-minute pitch to a panel of expert judges. The 10 top ideas will be selected.
  4. Pre-incubation: The Top-10 entrants will be given 3 months’ membership of the Tshimologong Precinct incubation programme. They will each be assigned a mentor and given access to a range of facilities, expert advisors and resources. They will use this time to develop a working prototype of their Personal Navigator and will refine their business model canvas.
  5. Demo Day: Each of the Top-10 entrants will be demonstrate their prototype and pitch their idea to a panel of judges. Three winners will be selected.
  6. Incubation: All 3 winners will receive an additional 7 months of membership in the Tshimologong Precinct incubation programme. One of these winning teams will be given the opportunity to send 2 members for 4 weeks to one of the Tshimologong Precinct’s international partner hubs. These hubs are in Canada, USA, Netherlands, UK and India. While resident at one of these hubs the team members will receive various types of support and will have opportunities to refine and expand their solution and business model.

Terms and Conditions

  1. The Wits Campus Personal Navigator Challenge is open to all. It is not limited to Wits students.
  2. Entrants are encouraged to work in small teams of up to 4 members, although individuals will be allowed to enter.
  3. At least 1 member of the team must be a South African citizen.
  4. At least 1 member of the team must live in the Greater Johannesburg area and must be available to attend all face-to-face sessions as listed under “key dates” below.
  5. The decisions of the judges are final.
  6. Membership of the Tshimologong Precinct is subject to the standard rules of the Precinct. Membership can be terminated if entrants fail to meet agreed progress targets.


Key Dates



Mon 13/2/2017

Challenge announced

Fri 24/3/2017

Application process closes

Wed 29/3/2017

Successful applicants informed

Fri 7/4/2017

Briefing Session 

Sat & Sun

22/4/2017 – 23/4/2017

Hackathon and Pitching session.

Mon 24/4/2017

10 Start-ups invited to join Tshimologong Incubator for 3 months

Sat 1/7/2017

Demo Day: Each Top-10 presents to Judging Panel. Top 3 Selected. Invited to join Incubator for 7 months

Jan 2018

1 of the top-3 travels to partner hub overseas.