National programming challenge targets school students

27 June 2011

The programming challenge is open to high school students across the country.
The programming challenge is open to high school students across the country.

The University of Sydney is calling on high school students with a penchant for computer programming to take part in its annual programming challenge.

The 2011 National Computer Science School Programming Challenge will put a series of computer programming challenges to school students from years seven to 12 over five weeks from 1 August.

The online challenge has in the past posed problems such as writing programs to solve crosswords, create anagrams and negotiate mazes. This year participants will have the chance to directly program circuit boards, creating mini-robots.

Challenge creators James Curran and Tara Murphy from the School of Information Technologies created the challenge in 2005 to get school students thinking more about IT careers and to complement a high school syllabus wanting in relevance.

"In New South Wales, the software design and development curriculum was last updated in 1995," says Dr Curran. "In the computing world that's ancient history. With the proposed national curriculum reducing the hours allocated to elective computing courses we see this challenge as plugging a gap in an area vital to Australia's continued economic growth."

Participation in the challenge has grown tenfold since it began. Last year's challenge drew 1600 students from across Australia, including the Northern Territory, and offshore locations as far away as Singapore. The challenge's automated marking system provides feedback to answers about 30 seconds after their submission, so geographic location does not impede competitors.

There are four streams to the challenge, catering to students of varying ability and interest. It is run in collaboration with National ICT Australia. Winners for the challenge will be announced in early September.

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