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Tips for Preparing for Computer Science Contest

By David Trussell, Assistant Academic Director | Tuesday, February 07, 2012 9:48 AM

Spring Meet district competitions are only about six weeks away, so plans should be well underway for your meet. For the Computer Science contest, here are several important reminders and items for consideration:

• Like many of the academic events, Computer Science includes individual and team components. A school must have three or four contestants to participate in the team component. It’s perfectly okay to enter only one or two contestants; in that case the contestant(s) would compete for individual honors only and take only the written exam.

• Computer Science is one event with two parts, a written exam and a hands-on programming test. The same contestants from a school participate in both parts. There are NOT separate entries for the written exam versus programming.

• All contestants must take the written exam, which determines individual placement and one half of team scores. Schools with three or four contestants are participants in the team component of the contest, which means they also do the programming test. Note that the rules for the programming session allow no more than three team members per school. If your school has four contestants entered, one of those will sit out the programming session (which one sits out is the coach’s discretion).

• Teams must be prepared to program. Earning a team score and possible team placement and advancement means full participation in the contest, and that includes programming. However, it’s important for teams with very little programming experience not to feel intimidated. The lowest possible programming score is zero, so there’s no way for it to hurt your team score. Also, the programming problem sets are designed to have a range of levels of difficulty, including at least one very easy problem. And even if your team scores zero points, you’ve still gained the educational experience of participating and probably had some fun as well.

• District meet directors must plan to include programming in their meets. The only exception occurs when a district has only one team entry (only one school that entered three or four contestants). In that case, the district is not required to conduct the programming session but is still encouraged to do so to provide valuable experience for the advancing team. The programming session is often conducted right after the written exam, but could be scheduled at a different time if needed.

• Judging materials for programming will most likely be included with the FIRST shipment of materials sent to district directors. (This shipment also includes generic items and the confidential Spelling Pronouncer’s CD.) It’s important that the contest director for Computer Science receives the judging packet well in advance of the meet.

• For questions about administrative procedures for programming or Computer Science in general, meet directors can contact David Trussell ( at the state office.

Finally, a brief note about A+ Academics — the window for fall/winter district meets closed Jan. 31. Materials from those meets may be returned to participating schools. A+ invitational meets continue through March, so those contest materials must be held until April 1 at which time they may be returned to participants. Spring district meets are underway and continue through May 26.