To Google and Beyond: University nurtures future IT programmers

15 January 2010

Students and teachers in the National Computer Science Summer School.
Students and teachers in the National Computer Science Summer School.

It's not everyone's idea of how to spend their January school holidays. But for 78 motivated high-school students, interested in web applications and robotics, the University of Sydney's National Computer Science School (NCSS) - now in its fifteenth year - still holds great appeal.

The School, which was established in 1996, gives senior high school students the opportunity to spend 10 days on the University's Camperdown campus, to receive expert tuition in programming for web applications and embedded systems for robotics.

The year 11 and 12 students are also given the opportunity to meet and learn from program sponsors including Google, Apple University Consortium and Altium.

Year 11 Darlinghurst student Lizzie Phillips, 17, said the program is a great opportunity to learn about programming. "It's a good trial and error experience," she said.

As part of the 10-day program, which finished this week, the students form groups and are required to either build a social networking site in just over three days, or program iRobots, in addition to producing video presentations.

NCSS director Dr James Curran said the students made an "amazing effort" in the short time available, and commended their work, especially considering some participants had no prior experience with the various programming languages.

Lizzie Phillip's group created the website Facepalm, of which she was a part of the design team. "The highlight was definitely the website Facepalm - that was the best thing ever", she said. She also enjoyed visits to sponsor sites. "Going to Google, that was the best!" she added.

The NCSS is organised by academic staff, alumni and students of the School of Information Technologies. The programme is completely residential, with all students staying with NCSS staff in full-board accommodation provided by The Women's College, within the University's main Camperdown campus.

Fellow Facepalm group member, Year 11 Mudgee student Jamie Kennedy, 17, applied to the program on advice of his teacher who had attended some of Dr Curran's lectures: "He said that James was a good teacher", he explained.

He hopes to successfully secure a placement at The University of Sydney in 2011. "I definitely want to do something with programming", he said.

Media inquiries: Sarah Stock, 0419 278 715,

or Megan van der Hoeven