Olympiad grows beyond expectation

The Computer Applications Olympiad had double the anticipated number of schools participating this year.

Finalists came from six provinces to compete for the Co.ZaCares trophy at the University of Cape Town.

The Computer Applications Olympiad (CAO) challenges the skills of learners in the use of Computer Office packages like Microsoft Office, Open Office and Libre Office.  The competition is open to all full-time school learners in South Africa, but is aimed at high school learners.

The Computer Society of South Africa has been running a Programming Olympiad for 28 years.  However that competition did not cater for a new school subject CAT, (Computer Application Technology) introduced in recent years.  Instead of programming, CAT students learn how to use office applications such as Word Processors, Spreadsheets, Databases, Presentation tools and Publishing Tools.  Unlike programming CAT is offered in many disadvantaged schools and is popular among both boys and girls.

The first Applications Olympiad took place in 2010.  To the organisers surprise more than 6 000 learners from 118 schools entered.  For 2011 they therefore expected about 10 000 learners from 200 schools.  Instead there were nearly 13 000 from close on 400 schools.  Fortunately sponsors UniForum SA and the Department of Science and Technology provided additional funding to cope with the growth.

In the round done at 393 schools, learners were asked to use their skills in extracting and manipulating information from data provided on a CD – using word processing, spreadsheets and a database.  For the Finals 13 participants from six different provinces were brought to Cape Town.  Their task was to create or manipulate various documents for an estate agency.

Gold medal winner and winner of the co.za Cares Trophy was last year’s silver medal winner, Helen Denny from grade 12 at La Rochelle Girls High in Paarl.  Helen has had a computer at home since 1996 when she was four years old, and has had internet access since primary school.

Helen loves Olympiads and other competitions.  She is a regular competitor in the Maths Olympiad, the Science Olympiad, the English Olympiad, the Global Olympiad, the Accounting Olympiad and many other competitions and Eisteddfods.  Not surprising she is the 2010 Dux of her school.  Helen has enrolled at the Stellenbosch University to read for a BA LLB.

Silver medals went to Jaco Nortier of Paarl Gymnasium and Sean Wentzel of Westerford High School.

Jaco is also a regular competitor in the Maths and English Olympiads.  He is going to study for a B Com at Stellenbosch University.

Sean Wentzel is not only a regular competitor in local Olympiads, but has won three medals at international events.  At the International Mathematics Olympiad he won bronze in 2010 and silver in 2011.  At the International Olympiad in Informatics (Programming) he won bronze in 2010.  Unlike all the other winners, Sean does not take CAT at school.  His skills are self taught.  Sean is going to study Computer Science and Mathematics at the University of Cape Town.

Sean missed the Applications Olympiad Awards function and as he was in Johannesburg to compete in the MinQuiz Competition.  Westerford Principal, Rob le Roux, collected the award on his behalf.

Bronze medals went to Erns Labuschagné and Richard Saunders, both of Paarl Gymnasium and René Engelbrecht from the Hoër Volkskool, Potchefstroom.

Guest Speaker, Professor Jean-Paul van Belle, of the Information Systems Department at the University of Cape Town, spoke about the opportunities available to young people in ICT – more than ever before.  He elaborated on several examples of students who had developed successful applications – such as IT multi-billionaire Mark Shuttleworth.  Many of them had started developing their successful products while still students.

The Computer Olympiad Manager drew attention to the fact that 4 of the 6 medal winners were from Paarl.  He attributes this to the intense competition between schools.  “This is a good example of how a competition like the Olympiad can improve education standards in an entire town”.

The Computer Olympiad organizers used the occasion to announce the provincial winners for the previous round.  (See under “RESULTS”)

National Results:

Medal Surname Name Grade School
Gold Denny Helen 12 La Rochelle GHS
Silver Nortier Jaco 12 Paarl Gymnasium
Silver Wentzel Sean 12 Westerford High
Bronze Engelbrecht René 12 Potchefstroom Volkskool
Bronze Labuschagné Erns 12 Paarl Gymnasium
Bronze Saunders Richard 12 Paarl Gymnasium
Runner-up de Bruin Zanel 12 Potchefstroom Volkskool
Runner-up Gounden Reece 10 Star College
Runner-up Huang Julia 12 Eunice High
Runner-up Manicom Patrick 12 Penryn College
Runner-up Maqubela Zikisa 12 Elliot High
Runner-up Ntoi Mothae 12 New Horizon College
Runner-up Scholtz Philip 12 Potchefstroom Volkskool