South Africa was the top programming team in Africa, finishing ahead of Morocco, Nigeria, and Tunisia in a computer programming contest, the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI). South Africa was also the only African team to bring home IOI medals from Tehran. The three bronze medal winners, all now at UCT, were in Gr 12 last year. They are David Broodryk (Westerford), Yaseen Mowzer (Fairbairn) and Bronson Rudner (SACS).
Broodryk commented “Tehran is a city of friendly and intellectually curious people. Our guide Marzieh is a data scientist analyzing genes to help cure diseases. I went expecting a desert and found instead an oasis.”
“The questions” said Mowzer, “were tougher than the questions of previous years. It was a little disheartening to sit a five-hour contest and score what seemed like so few points, so slowly. However, after the contest, we realized that we performed well relative to the other contestants.”
Rudner reflected that he “felt extremely honoured to take part in the IOI in Tehran.” He added that “Iran was a wonderful host and while the questions proved tougher this year, I feel the team persevered and achieved remarkable results, and I am proud to have been awarded a bronze medal for South Africa.”
The Manager of the SA Computer Olympiad, Michael Cameron, acknowledged “the outstanding voluntary leadership of UCT Science undergraduate student, Robin Visser for his work in training the team. Visser was an IOI bronze medal winner in 2015 in Kazakhstan, and IOI Deputy Team Leader in 2016 and 2017. “Robin put together the training, the contests and the evaluation system. In this, he was supported by Laurens Weyn (2016 Russian IOI SA team member).
One of the four team members, Ralph McDougall, who had just returned from the International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO) in Rio de Janeiro in the previous week said “I love problem solving… it’s very satisfying to see how to make progress on difficult problems and get closer to the best solution.” He added that “IMO and IOI are great ways to challenge yourself with intense maths and programming problems. It was an amazing experience to represent my country on the world stage. Although changing time zones every week can get a bit irritating, I enjoy competing with others who love problem solving. It’s very enriching to see how people from different countries and cultures approach problems and how they train to do better. Germany selects on talent and people are expected to better themselves in their free time. Nigeria has intense training to do better and selects on improvement.”
McDougall is still in Grade 11 (Curro Durbanville) and could earn a place in the SA team to Japan in 2018. The first step for selection is Round One of the South African Computer Programming Olympiad, sponsored by Standard Bank. This free, one-hour online contest runs at schools at any time in the week Monday 14 to Friday 18 August. A school may enter the Programming Olympiad via the website www.olympiad.org.za, or by emailing the SA Computer Olympiad office on firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 021 448 7864 (08:00 – 16:00).