On a beautiful California day at the very beginning of high school swim season and in the midst of high school basketball playoffs, there was a group of high school students huddled at the HP site in Roseville for a different competition- CodeWars. Oak Ridge HS exited the competition as the clear team to beat going forward as they took first place in the advanced competition and swept the novice competitiion with first, second, and third place.
CodeWars began at the HP site in Houston 16 years ago and this year was the first time the competition made its way to California thanks to HP Roseville engineer, Ken Duisenberg and loads of HP volunteers. CodeWars is a team competition with up to three members per team using their brain power to solve problems and earn points for correctly solving problems. The problems have a range of difficulty of which few points are given for the easier variety and many points are given for the extremely difficult ones. However, the competition is time bound and teams must take a strategy that allows them to maximize points within the time they have. Thus, attacking a very difficult problem but not successfully solving it could leave a team with no points. See sample problems here http://www.hpcodewars.org/index.php?page=samples.
Second place for the advanced competition went to Mira Loma HS and third place went to Mira Costa HS. Mira Costa HS is in Manhattan Beach, CA. Yes, a young man and his dad, Phil Anthony, made the long trip to get this opportunity because there is not enough of these types of challenges to engage kids in critical thinking and application of computer concepts. Equally impressive was a team of eighth graders from Cooley Middle School in Roseville who came to take on the big kids. And in an age where boys continue to convincingly outnumber girls in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) pursuits, it was great to see Aimee Staats bring two teams from St. Francis HS to compete. The dedication of the Oak Ridge team was met by their sponsor, Mrs. Stephanie Allen, who sat in the lobby grading her classroom assignments while the students were in the midst of competition.
The lack of programming classes and challenges was a common concern amongst the parents in attendance and CodeWars was an excellent first step that they look forward to next year on the first Saturday in March- March 1, 2014. Next year it’s expected that the number of schools participating will grow beyond the 16 from this year and HP will be filling their large cafeteria instead of the large conference room in order to hold everyone. Luckily for some of the students their schools have adopted AP Computer Science though this is the first year for several of the programs. In speaking with the winners and parents of the advanced competition, it appears that a few dads taking the initiative to pull together kids in their communities to work on robotics is what introduced them to programming and leveraging critical thinking to solve complex problems.
Schools represented included Casa Roble High School, Colfax High School, Cooley Middle School, Cornerstone Christian School, Del Oro High School, El Camino High School, Ghidotti High School, Granite Bay High School, Mira Costa High School, Mira Loma High School, Natomas High School, Oak Ridge High School, Placer High School, Rocklin High School, Roseville High School, and St. Francis High School.