We hear from Christopher Dunderdale, a final year statistics masters student at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. His current academic focus is in the area of renewable energy and artificial intelligence which is being used to build photovoltaic analytical systems.  His work, funded by NRF, SASA and Nelson Mandela University using AI to detect faults in PV panels, was presented at the MTN Innovation Wall, a joint initiative between AI Media and MTN to showcase applied, academic R&D applicable to industry or possible investment.  His poster was voted by the delegates as the best of show.

PV poster at AI Expo Africa 2019

Credit – Photovoltaic Defect Classification through Thermal Infrared Imagery using a Deep Learning Approach. Christopher Dunderdale

Christopher writes, “As a statistics masters student finishing off my project this year, my interest was immediately piqued when the call for abstracts were sent out for the 2019 AI Expo Africa. A conference purely focused on the field of AI, machine learning, business intelligence and all things in between was the perfect opportunity to showcase my work to industry.

To be honest, I had never heard of the AI Expo Africa conference before this year, although this is likely because I study in Port Elizabeth and not a corporate hub like Cape Town or Johannesburg. I quickly realised that I had been living under a rock for the past few years, as there is an active and lively community following events such as these.

AI Expo Africa 2019 MTN Innovation wall & winner

Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams shows a keen interest in the MTN Innovation Wall

My experience at the expo was nothing short of profound. The event organisers did an amazing job of ensuring that a wide variety of topics were covered at the expo. Although the expo is industry focused, I still gained a lot of useful information by attending the talks. Besides the exhaustive list of vendors, companies and speakers at the event, there was ample opportunity provided to network. I also met recruiters and industry professionals who were able to give me industry specific advice on getting into the job market. Understanding the value one can add to a company with a data science related degree has made me a better applicant and has consequently opened a lot of doors for me.

My only (small) gripe about the event was the timing of when the students were requested to be at the MTN Innovation Wall in order to field questions regarding their posters. Unfortunately, what transpired was that if we left our stands during the tea break to get food, someone would inevitably come to our poster and we would not be present to answer questions. Although a small issue, I would ask that the organisers of the event consider adding an allocated time in the programme purely for students to showcase their work. If time in the programme is a precious commodity (which I suspect it is), limiting the poster presentations to one specific day may also solve this problem.

MTN Innovation Wall AI Expo Africa

While I have this opportunity to describe my experience of the expo, I feel that I must take the time to write a note of thanks to the sponsors and event organisers on behalf of all the students. Accepted students at the expo were given a free pass to the event. Apart from being a significant financial contribution from the sponsors and organisers, this allowed us to attend an event we would otherwise not be able to attend. This act of kindness was unexpected, but very much appreciated. From all of us in the student body, we thank you for investing in us and our future in the industry.

Thanks to MTN for sponsoring the Innovation Wall

Overall, one can only praise the event and its organisers. Everything ran like a well-oiled machine and there was always a willing person to help with any issues. You can be assured that I will be waxing lyrical about this event for some time to come. As it stands, the 2020 edition of the AI Expo Africa has already been announced and I can’t wait to be back!”

Dr Nick Bradshaw, Co-founder of AI Expo Africa said, “Our long term vision is to build an “AI Economic Pipeline” in Africa – A community that begins with a young learner right through to the biggest global enterprise.  The Innovation Wall is one part of this vision and serves as a stepping stone for under-graduates / post-graduates to obtain early exposure to a trade show but also an opportunity to showcase their work to delegates, companies, investors and government agencies. It helps open new doors for the innovators and gain real-world feedback and opportunities to take their work and or career to the next level”.

About AI Expo Africa

AI Expo Africa is the largest B2B AI trade show and conference event in Africa.  Our 2020 conference and expo is now booked (2-4th September 2020, Cape Town) and builds upon the phenomenal success of the 2019 event that had 1000+ delegates, 370+ companies, 100+ speakers & 50+ sponsors.  The Venue for AI Expo Africa 2020 is the world class Century City Conference Centre.  With 3000+ members, it is a great place to meet AI focused buyers, suppliers, investors and innovators in Africa.

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