Thendo Mpho Lukhwareni, a learner at Mbilwi Secondary School, made a deep impression at the Eskom Expo International Science Fair (ISF) with her artificial-intelligence-powered (AIP) mobile application. Photo supplied.

Young Thendo makes big impression at Eskom Expo


Sixteen-year-old Thendo Mpho Lukhwareni, from Thohoyandou Block J, caused quite a stir at the recent Eskom Expo International Science Fair (ISF) when she presented her research project – an artificial-intelligence-powered (AIP) mobile application, which is a study tool for struggling students.

The purpose of the Eskom Expo, which was held at the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre in Boksburg, is to grow scientists and engineers for South Africa.

Thendo, who is a learner at Mbilwi Secondary School, was among ten learners selected to receive a 12-month mentorship and incubation programme, sponsored by the Durban University of Technology, to the value of R20,000 per learner.

“My project, ‘Student Tech Universal Developed Assistant (STUDA)’, is an app powered by AI that assists students who are struggling with procrastination and/or sickness to complete their schoolwork on time. It also gives students the capability to write stories and explore the nuances of the English language. The aim is to mitigate the increasing rates of illiteracy among the youth in South Africa, and to provide a more accessible studying tool,” said Thendo.

She said that the inspiration behind her project had come from her own experience. “This year alone, I spent more time in doctor’s offices, leading to my falling behind in my schoolwork. I also saw my classmates struggling with the same problem. These factors combined made me realise that there is a need to develop a solution that assists students. With that, STUDA was born.”

Eskom Expo Executive Director Parthy Chetty said that Thendo’s project was proof that they were on the right track. “This winning project hails from a Limpopo township without many amenities and educational support structures as found in the big cities and would not have been found had it not been for the unique platform the Eskom Expo provides to our learners. It is therefore important for more schools, teachers, and learners to participate in the Eskom Expo to win life-changing awards,” she said.

Thendo was also awarded a silver medal at the fair. Her plans are to further her research and her understanding of psychology and neurology behind learning, and how AI can be used to make learning easier. She aspires to transform the educational system.



Date:14 October 2023

By: Khathutshelo Raliphaswa

Khathutshelo Prudence Raliphaswa started her journey in the media industry by studying Media Consultancy at Boston College in 2018. She continued her studies in journalism at IIE Rosebank College and graduated in 2022. Her passion is to be creative with words and tell stories in a more detailed way. She started as an intern at Limpopo Mirror in 2023 and is primarily responsible for the translations into Tshivenda..

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