In 2009, for the first time in the 26 year history of the South African Computer Olympiad, two participants tied for the first place.
Gwylim Ashley of Knysna and Kosie van der Merwe of Brackenfell had identical scores and were both awarded gold trophies at a function attended by academics, educationalists and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.
The Standard Bank/CSSA Computer Olympiad is an annual competition to identify, encourage and reward programming skills among high school learners. The competition attracted more than 33,000 entries for the First Round this year, and 2,770 for the Second Round. Fourteen learners were invited to take part in the Final Round which took place at the University of Cape Town on 26 and 27 September. The winners were announced at a gala function at Kelvin Grove in Cape Town this week.
Peter Waker, Manager of the Standard Bank Computer Olympiad said that the results were surprising. “Never in the 26 year history of the Olympiad have we had results that were this close. Not only did the top two participants both score 88% out of 600, but number three was only one point below them – and this in a competition where the average score is 56%.”
Gwylim Ashley, who attends Oakhill School in Knysna, and Kosie van der Merwe a learner at Brackenfell High, both received R30,000 each and their schools received R4,000 each. Gwylim and Kosie will have to share the Standard Bank Trophy, which is a floating trophy.
This year all the participants in the Olympiad used Python, the language used by Mark Shuttleworth to write the computer program that made him a multi-billionaire. Mark wants to encourage other young South Africans to have the same opportunities he had and therefore donates R100,000 prize money annually for Computer Olympiad finalists who use Python.
Guest Speaker Hamilton Ratshefola, MD of Cornastone, urged the ICT industry, and especially young people entering the industry, to recognise the opportunities Africa offers South African companies.
Guest of Honour, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, supported this view and gave the audience a brief preview of “Silicon Cape” a venture to be launched by the Western Cape Government to attract and retain the cream of South African IT scientists for this country. Silicon Cape will officially be launched on 8 October.
Two of this year’s bronze medal winners were from the Western Cape and one from North-West Province.
Francois Conradie is a grade 12 learner and Head Boy at De Kuilen High School in Kuils River.
Sean Wentzel is a grade 10 learner from Westerford High in Rondebosch.
Schalk-Willem Krüger, who took part in his fourth Computer Olympiad this year, is from grade 12 at Ferdinand Postma High in Potchefstroom, North-West Province.
The silver trophy and R27,000 in prize money was carried off by Graham Manuell, a grade 12 learner at De La Salle Holy Cross College in Gauteng.
Brendon Wilson, Head of Risk and Finance Technology at Standard Bank, the main sponsor of the Computer Olympiad, commented: “It is good to see such enthusiasm for nuts and bolts programming. What our economy needs for the foreseeable future is technical people; software engineers.”
Concluded Peter Waker: “We are looking forward to see how well these young people will do in the International Olympiad in Informatics in Canada next year.”