2009 Computer Olympiad Finalists

The Top 60 schools and students who participated in the Second Round of the  2009 Standard Bank/Computer Society of South Africa Computer Olympiad were announced in Cape Town today, together with the names of the learners who have been invited to take part in the Final Round.

A total of 33,119 students from 410 schools entered for the First Round of the Computer Olympiad in April. Of these 2,776 students from 183 schools were chosen by their schools to participate in the Second Round. The top 14 students from the Second Round will participate in the Final Round on 27 and 28 September at the University of Cape Town.

Peter Waker, Manager of the Standard Bank/CSSA Computer Olympiad, is delighted with the results. “Many schools are using the First Round of the Computer Olympiad as an aptitude test to see if learners should consider a career in IT. It is encouraging to see the number of First Round entries every year. It proves that there is an increasing interest in ICT as a career among learners.”

A great attraction is the additional R100 000 in prize money made available by Mark Shuttleworth for participants using Python. Python is the Open Source programming language used by Mark to write the computer software that made him a billionaire. Unlike commercial programming languages, Python is available free of charge. (www.python.org)

Marco Gallotta, a leading member of the Scientific Committee which set the questions, added: “The questions in the Second Round were very challenging, and the average learner did not score very high. To our surprise a small group of learners succeeded in scoring close to full marks.”

A large number of younger participants have made their way to the Final Round for 2009. Bennie Swart from Bellville High and Kieren Davies from the International School in Hout Bay are in grade 11. Charl du Plessis of Stellenberg High, Vaughan Newton of Bridgehouse and Sean Wentzel of Westerford are in grade 10, and Robert Spencer, also of Westerford, is only in grade 9. The last is the intellectual equivalent of playing in the first under 19 team while still 14 years old.

Asked about future trends, Peter Waker answered: “While it is encouraging that the number of First Round entries is so high, it is also a concern that the number of entries in the Second Round is dropping. This is a result of fewer and fewer schools offering Computer Programming courses – mostly as a result of a chronic shortage of teachers to offer the subject. Many schools are switching to a new subject “Computer Application Technology” (CAT) which teaches the use of common applications such as word processors, spreadsheets, etc. The eventual result of this will be that students will enter or avoid a tertiary programming course without having any idea what programming is, whether they like it or are suited to it. Some students who should have pursued a career in ICT will not do so; some who should have avoided ICT will waste a year on a course which does not interest them. Some-how an introduction to programming should be included in another subject or at least in the new subject “Computer Application Technology”.