Programming contests: Two innovative models from New Zealand

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  • Online article: Programming contests: Two innovative models from New Zealand
  • Author(s): Raewyn Boersen, M. Phillipps
  • Year: 2006
  • Conference: Perspectives on computer science competitions for (high school) students

Abstract: The New Zealand Programming Contest and the Young Women's Programming Contest are both believed to be unique. The first caters for programmers with a range of skills from aspiring to experienced. There are several categories of contestant including the relatively recent addition of one for high school students. Problems are weighted according to perceived difficulty. The winner of each category is the team with the most points. Languages used to solve the problems are those generally available and used by either teaching institutions or industry. Contestants compete in 3 person teams over a five hour period and they solve mainly algorithmic problems.

The Young Women's Programming Contest, by contrast, is only for female high school students. As the contest uses a specially written assembler-like language that may be mastered in a very short time, the contest event includes the teaching of the language as well as the competition. Young women compete in teams of two, the questions in the problem set are multi part with a variety of points per part. These parts are incremental. Partial marks may also be allocated. The type of problems solved vary from common mathematical topics to simple business ones.

The infrastructural components of successful programming competitions are analysed. These are deemed to be having a "champion", marketing the contest, administrative systems, site resources, rewards, problem sets, judging systems, training opportunities and contestants. Whilst all major components are present to some degree in both competitions, and are agreed necessary, the factors of having a "champion" and marketing are paramount for a contest to grow and develop.

Future developments of both contests are suggested. The marketing of the New Zealand Programming Contest to high school students is a priority. The Young Women's Programming Contest, currently in recess, is still considered a valid enterprise and worthy of restoration.

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