SA Team wins Bronze in 2009 IT Olympiad

South African Maths and IT whiz kid, Francois Conradie, impressed the judges at the 2009 International Olympiad in Informatics with his computer programming skills and was awarded a bronze medal at the 21st IOI in Bulgaria.

Every year learners from more than 80 countries from all over the world meet for the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI). This year learners from 83 countries met at Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria to compete in the 21st IOI.

A team of four candidates from SA traveled to Plovdiv in Bulgaria where they joined 316 other contestants to solve the eight problems thrown at them by the judges.

Francois Conradie – De Kuilen High School, Kuils River, Western Cape
Schalk-Willem Krüger – Ferdinand Postma High School, Potchefstroom, North West Province
Graham Manuell – De La Salle Holy Cross College, Johannesburg, Gauteng
Kosie van der Merwe – Brackenfell High School, Western Cape

Team Leader was Peter Waker, Manager of the Standard Bank/CSSA Computer Olympiad, assisted by Max Rabkin, post graduate student at the University of Cape Town, and himself a previous Olympiad medal winner.

The four learners were selected from the 33 000 candidates who took part in the 2008 Standard Bank/CSSA Computer Olympiad and who received additional training at three Training Camps run by the South African Computer Olympiad Trust.

The participants spent two days – 5 hours per day – writing the computer programs that would solve the given problems.  Francois Conradie took the lead among the South Africans by scoring 266 (out of 400) on the First Day.  On the next competition day he added another 179 points; sufficient to earn him a bronze medal.

Peter Waker of the Computer Society of South Africa, and manager of the Standard Bank Computer Olympiad had the following comment: “The problems were extremely challenging this year, and some participants from other countries had to go home with a zero score.  Obtaining a bronze under those circumstances is an excellent achievement.” Even the top participant had only 43% for the most difficult problem.

Francois is in grade 12 at De Kuilen High School in Kuils River this year. He has been a finalist in the Standard Bank/CSSA Computer Olympiad for three years; 2006, 2007 and 2008. While this is the first time that he made it to the International Olympiad in Informatics, he is no stranger to International Olympiads. In 2007, 2008 and again in 2009 he represented South Africa at the International Maths Olympiad.

Francois is following in the footsteps of brother Jacques, who represented South Africa at the 2002 IOI in Korea and also won a bronze medal.

All four members of the South African squad could qualify again for inclusion in the 2010 South African team going to the IOI in Canada – providing they do well enough in the 2009 Standard Bank/CSSA Computer Olympiad.

While in Bulgaria, the team had plenty of opportunities to relax. There was a visit to the “Old City” of Plovdiv, go-kart racing and a visit to the Black Sea.

The outright winner of the International Olympiad in Informatics, was 14-year-old Henadzi Karatkevich, from Bellarus, who also won the IFIP medal for being the youngest medal winner.