Google Code-In – Where are UK teenagers?

There are many opportunities around for programmers and developers to support schools that wish to promote computing and programming. For the last few years Google has run an international competition for teenagers (aged 13 – 18) called “Google Code-In”

What is startling is that for Google Code-In 2010 the top 10 countries with the highest number of participants were, in this order: The United States, Romania, Bulgaria, The Russian Federation, India, Poland, Canada, Germany, Italy, and Australia.

Teenagers from the UK did not even feature in the top ten numbers of entries, let alone win an award.

To be fair, if you compare the population sizes of some of these countries you could easily imagine why large or densely populated countries like USA (population 300m) and India (population 1.2bn) would be in the top 10. However, you may well ask…

“How does a country like Bulgaria with a population of 7 million manage to have so many teenagers entering the competition?”

A remarkable fact when you consider that with 66 million residents, the UK has a population almost 10 times larger!

You may wish to read this to discover more and this . It seems that in Bulgaria, opportunities to learn about computing and programming are encouraged, and competitions are regularly used to promote interest in this field. So, no accident then.

It is also worth looking at the countries that the winners originated from

1. Utku Aydin, Turkey
2. Fernando Brito, Brazil
3. David Czech, Canada
4. Aviral Dasgupta, India
5. Alexandru-Marian Florescu, Romania
6. Gautam Gupta, India
7. Daniel Kang, United States
8. Nolan Lum, United States
9. Daniel Marth, Austria
10. Florentina Musat, Romania
11. Pim Otte, Netherlands
12. Matt Rajca, United States
13. Furkan Üzümcü, Turkey
14. Tony Young, New Zealand

In addition to the Google Code-In, there is another international programming competition known as the International Olympiad in Informatics IOI and each country around the world submits teams to take place in the finals.

In the UK, there are a handful of competitions that teenagers with an interest in programming can enter. If I have left any out, please comment on this blog below.

There is also the Animation competition that the University of Manchester have hosted, this has grown in popularity each year as news spreads. This year, in addition to the animation competition there is a ‘code breaker‘ competition, inspired by the approaching anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing. A major stipulation is that the code breaker game must be created using Greenfoot Java. However, an interest or knowledge in programming is not required for the Animation competition, so the Code Breaker competition is a welcome addition this year. Who knows, it may go on to inspire a number of teenagers to try for the British Informatics Olympiad.

The British Informatics Olympiad BIO is the national computing competition for secondary schools and colleges.The 2011-2012 competition details will be announced in November 2011. Please visit the site to learn more about previous history and to see examples of previous challenges. It would be great if some one who is creative with web pages could spice up the main page a little more, it is looking very dated. The Manchester University Animation12 page looks exciting and is sure to inspire the imagination of children and teenagers.

BAFTA host an annual ‘Young Game Designers‘ award which does not require any programming knowledge or background. Teamwork, imagination, creativity and presentation seem to be the key components required. The website is packed full of inspiration, examples, testimonials, videos etc.

For the last few years the SSAT (now called The Schools Network) has hosted the Scratch Maths competition. At the present time, it is not clear if this will be repeated in 2011-2012. Two pupils from our school won – so of course I was very happy for them!

Another competition worth considering is Young Rewired State. In August 2011, 100 young developers created more than 40 projects at 14 centres around the UK in a week, and presented them to press and government at Microsoft’s offices in Victoria. In 2012, this takes place from August 6th – 10th. There are some blogs available to read, this one is about the MadLab Manchester YRS 2011. You can read another blog about YRS 2011. You might consider hosting a YRS centre at your school, community centre or place of work.

Next Steps…

If you are in a school you could organise a lunchtime or after school club to prepare for this. If you are a developer or programmer, consider approaching a school to submit a team of pupils. If you have any other suggestions, please share comments here.

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