Coding Excellence at UTS

In the Classroom | 05-Jun-2017

Coding Excellence at UTS

By Adam Gregson and Grant Hutchison, UTS mathematics and computer science teachers

For the fourth straight year, UTS students were selected to attend the Canadian Computing Olympiad (CCO)! Arielle and Joey (S5/Grade 11) were invited to participate on the strength of their earlier performance on the University of Waterloo Canadian Computing Competition (CCC) at which only the top 25 students (plus ties) are selected to move on.  At the CCO both students achieved the bronze level.

Arielle is the first female UTS student to be invited to CCO, and she is among the top programmers even among this elite competition group. It’s worth noting that she’s in fine company at UTS: 40% of the students in computer science this year at the school are female. That’s an excellent level of representation compared to computing industry and to other educational institutions.

While most students invited to the CCO have been studying competitive programming since middle school, Arielle only began coding when she learned Python in M4 (Grade 10) Computer Science class. By December of that year, she was an adept C++ programmer and was soon meeting weekly with then-S6 (Grade 12) student Jeffrey Xiao ’16 – now a Waterloo software engineering student (see below for more on Jeffrey). Arielle's dedication and practice – along with a remarkable amount of natural ability and intuition – continue to show results in her rapid rise in the competitive computing world.

The CCC is an individual coding event, but many software engineering challenges require effective collaboration. Launched in 1990, the annual Educational Computing Organization of Ontario Computer Science (ECOO-CS) is one such team-based coding event. This year the UTS team of Joey, Arielle, James, and Howard finished 5th in the province. 
Computer Science is a popular – and growing – subject at UTS and there are lots of opportunities for students to practice and hone their computer science skills. The UTS Programming Club is an excellent place for all students to learn the algorithms and techniques to potentially reach the podium at these coding competitions. In classrooms at UTS the brand new Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles course – expected to have record levels of participation around the world – was introduced this year as a blended course with (M4) Grade 11 Computer Science (ICS3UN). Next year, the AP Computer Science A course will also be offered as a blended course with (S5) Grade 12 Computer Science (ICS4UN).

Beyond the walls of UTS, our alumni continue to shine in the field of computer science. Jacob Jackson ’15 again represented the University of Waterloo at the world's premier post-secondary programming competition, the Association for Computing Machinery's International Collegiate Programming Contest (ACM-ICPC) in South Dakota where he finished 13th. Jacob and his team earned their berth by placing first at the regional competition in October. In that same contest, Jeffrey Xiao ’16 and his team placed 4th, a very respectable result considering the high level of competition.

The New York Times has recently written articles about the surge in computer science enrollments at the post-secondary level. Some of our alumni are leading the charge, and UTS students are readying themselves to meet this challenge too!

More on the CCC and CCO, the ECOO-CS; and the ACM-ICPC.

In the photo (L-R): UTS students Howard, James, Joey, and Arielle at the ECOO competition.