Grade 11 wins Computer Olympiad

Johannesburg, 13 Oct 2010

At a glitzy gala dinner to honour Computer Olympiad winners, manager Peter Waker announced that only two of the six winners were from grade 12 - the others being grade 11 and 10 learners.

The Standard Bank/CSSA Computer Olympiad is an annual competition to identify, encourage and reward programming skills among high school learners. The competition attracted 38 000 entries for the first round this year, and 3 500 for the second round.

Sixteen learners were invited to take part in the final round, which took place at the University of Cape Town on 2 and 3 October. The winners were announced at a gala function at the Kelvin Grove Club, in Cape Town, this week.

The winner was Sean Wentzel, a grade 11 learner from Waterford High School in Cape Town. Sean won a total of R35 000 prize money for himself and R4 000 for his school.

Much of the prize money comes from IT multibillionaire Mark Shuttleworth. The program that created his wealth was developed using a computer programming language called Python. Shuttleworth wants others to have the same opportunities as he had, and rewards the use of Python in the Computer Olympiad. Fourteen of the 16 finalists used Python.

One of the Scientific Committee members, Keegan Carruthers-Smith, explains: "Python is easy to learn and one can soon solve complicated problems using Python. High school learners love it."

Silver Medals went to Kieren Davies of grade 12, from the International School of Hout Bay, and Vaughan Newton, a grade 11 learner at Bishops. Each received R24 000 prize money.

Bronze Medals went to Ashraf Moolla, a grade 11 learner at Rondebosch Boys' High, Robert Spencer from grade 10 at Waterford High, and Bennie Swart from grade 12 at Bellville High.

Guest speaker, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Derek Hanukah, was delighted to discover that while most of the participants had dreams of selling their programs for zillions, all of them would use such a windfall for projects to help humanity. "It is good to meet a group of young people who see greatness in service to others."

In his address, Hanukah remarked on how important competitions like the Computer Olympiad are to encourage the development of talent in South Africa. He welcomed the news that a pilot Computer Applications Olympiad already attracted 6 000 entries.

Explained Computer Olympiad manager, Peter Waker: "Only about 2% of high schools in South Africa offer computer programming (IT) as a subject. Many more offer CAT - Computer Applications Technology. Those learners could never take part in the second round of the Computer Olympiad as it requires programming skills. To cater for CAT learners and others who are experienced in using Office Applications, we are running a Computer Applications Olympiad. We expected about 500 entries from 20 schools. We now have 115 schools and more than 6 000 entries."

Mostly, schools heard about the Applications Olympiad through word-of-mouth - or rather finger-on-send.

Peter Waker
021 448 7864