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Young Programmers Face Off in WVU Tech High School Competition

On Saturday, November 14, students from local high schools visited WVU Tech’s Montgomery campus to compete in the University’s High School Programming Competition.

Hosted by the WVU Tech Department of Computer Science and sponsored by the BrickStreet Foundation, the event drew seven teams from George Washington and South Charleston high schools – 17 students in total – to compete for cash prizes and WVU Tech scholarships.

The day-long competition saw teams write computer programs to tackle ten different problems, all of which tested the students’ programming, problem-solving, teamwork and critical thinking skills.

Dr. Matthew Williamson, professor of computer science and information systems at WVU Tech, organized the event. He said that with two or three programmers per team and a single computer between them, the competition is also an exercise in time and resource management.

“You may have one student writing up the code for one program, another student writing the algorithm for another and another student debugging code that isn’t working correctly. They need to play to their strengths to solve the problems as quickly as possible,” he said.

Leslie Pearcy and Matthew Sivaprakasam (George Washington High School) took first place in the competition. Michael Blessent, Alex Casto and Alex Sanchez (South Charleston High School) finished a close second, while Ryan Mears and Danya Shere (George Washington High School) placed third.

Each person on the first place team received a $300 cash prize and a $3,000 renewable scholarship to attend WVU Tech. The second place team was awarded $200 cash and a $2,000 scholarship, and members of the third place team received $100 cash and a $1,000 scholarship.

While prizes are an attractive benefit to student competitors, Williamson said that every student walks away having something to show for their work.

“Competitive programming exposes the students to different types of problems they may not see at the high school level. If you expose them to something new, they’re going to be interested in it,” he said. “I think the competition also builds that passion for programming. They’re studying how to write programs, and the competition provides another way to test that knowledge.”

“I spoke with one team that didn’t place in the competition. Despite the result, they said they had a lot of fun, and they’re eager to prepare for next year’s competition. That’s what we want to see. We want them to become even more interested in programming,” he said.

The competition has grown in popularity since its launch last year, and Williamson said that he hopes to increase the size of the competition to 10-20 teams. He also said he’s grateful for the work of the Computer Science Department and its students, the WVU Tech chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery and the Golden Bear E-Sports Club for their help with the event.