Four problems, three hours, the clock starts now.
On April 2, fourteen secondary teams of 2-4 students descended on St. Jean de Brébeuf Catholic Secondary School for Programmania, the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board’s annual computer programming competition where programming supremacy is decided by accuracy and speed.
Capturing first place honours was the Bishop Ryan team of Carmelo Restivo-Caponcello, Jeremias Kolanski, Jakub Wozniak and Mark JP Sanchez. In second place was the Cardinal Newman trio of Michael Gulka, Luca DiBussolo and William Micieli. In third place was the team of Janet Ly and Isabella Scheider from Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School.
Programmania was launched in 1988 by the secondary school business and computer departments to provide a platform for students to practise and test their programming skills.
“The purpose is to challenge the coding competency of students by giving them four questions to solve (code) within a three-hour time frame,” says event organizer and St. Jean de Brébeuf Computer Studies Head, Angelo Bellavia.
The competition serves as a springboard to the ECOO (Educational Computing Organization of Ontario) regional and provincial programming contests.
The problems are custom designed by Bellavia and increase in complexity as the students work through the questions. Teams are allowed two attempts at each. Despite the rigor of the challenges, it is possible to achieve a perfect score, says Bellavia. This year the winning team from Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School completed the challenges with a score of 100%.
Each question is awarded points based on the number of successfully run input files and the time taken to complete the challenge. In the first question, Dartboard, students were given a coordinate and were tasked with determining whether the dart landed in any of the three circles on a cartesian plane. That was the easy question.
Many of the schools have coding and/or programming clubs that practise problems, including challenges from previous ECOO competitions. The coding questions in the competition also encapsulate what students learn in the computer curriculum.
However, where the competition differs from the courses and clubs is its exposure to the bigger picture, suggests Bellavia.
“One big thing they realize is how many other students are interested in programming across the board. All staff involved are extremely supportive and the excitement and exchange of coding ideas between everyone is a valuable experience for all the students.”
“I believe this contest demonstrates to the students how big and important the constantly emerging field of Computer Science is,” he adds.
The growing interest in programming is reflected at Programmania, which now attracts upwards of 12 teams.
“Coding is a great skill everyone should be exposed to,” says Bellavia.
He hopes to see a greater a push for coding in the elementary schools.
“Steve Jobs once said, ‘Everybody in this country should learn to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.’”
The top three teams will advance to the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO) regional programming contest at University of Western Ontario on April 27.
The best from the regional tournament will move on to the Final Competition at York University on May 11.