IITPSA, the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa, has announced a new beneficiary of its SSIR Online School scholarship, which has covered the costs of the online Java Programming Course for learners in Grade 10, 11 and 12 since 2017. The scholarship has benefited a number of learners, with three girls now in Grade 12, four in Grade 11, and a new beneficiary now entering Grade 12.

The latest beneficiary, 17-year-old Dilan Vermaak, has been awarded a bursary to complete his computing studies via SSIR. He aims to go on to study a BSc Computer Science and hopes to work as a software engineer in future. 

As a disabled learner, Dilan said his interest in IT emerged at an early age, when he began tinkering with computers since he was unable to go outside and play. 

He explained: “My passion for IT began at the age of two when my grandma bought me a toy laptop. I was utterly fascinated by it. Due to my interest in that laptop, my Mom bought me a real laptop for my 4th birthday. Unlike most other children, I cannot go outside and kick a ball; therefore I sought entertainment indoors which is where my interest and passion developed. 

“Not only regarding entertainment, but, more importantly, the opportunity to learn and communicate through assistive technologies. And I believe many others in my position feel the same. I can’t imagine what I would have done without technology and a way to stimulate my brain. The world would not have been what it is had it not been for technology. Plus, the life of disabled people would have been ten times harder,” he said.

With Elon Musk as an innovative role model, Dilan is particularly interested in developing embedded software and corresponding software higher up in the hierarchy, with a focus on fields such as astronomy and renewable energy. “I find the impact of IT on astronomy exceptionally intriguing,” he said. “For example, how we are able to build images and theories based on radio waves converted to information using computers. I would really enjoy specialising in this too, if possible.”

Dilan is also working on developing innovative assistive technologies. One of his current projects is a free application to turn a keyboard Num pad into a mouse for users who lack the motor function to use a traditional mouse.

Based in Centurion, Dilan studies online, and excels at STEM subjects and IT, having achieved 89 per cent for mathematics, 81 per cent for physics, and 97 per cent overall for IT last year.