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Indiana Science Olympics

Posted by Andy (admin) on Mar 22 2012
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 This weekend I'll be taking a group of students to Bloomington IN to judge the state finals of the "Game On" competition, which is a trial event in the science olympics.

The Science Olympiad is a national event which has grown in prominence over the last few years.  This event encourages middle-school and high-school students to form teams, participating in a number of high-interest science competitions.

I was asked a few years ago to be the state coordinator for the computing competition (Compute This.) That contest involved having students do research on a web site and answer questions demonstrating data analysis skills.

While I was happy to be involved in the competition, I did not feel that this was a good indicator of what computer science is, and did not serve the purpose of drawing students into computing as a potential discipline.  

So, I worked with some students to set up a new computing competition to run as part of the Science Olympiad.  In this event, we give each team a stock copy of Scratch (a marvelous free program from MIT) and a topic, and we ask each team of two to build a game in one hour.  

We have run this as a state-wide event for three years now, and it has become one of the most popular trial events in the state competition.

This weekend, we'll be running our largest competition yet, with four heats of 13 teams.  Most of the leadership will come from IUPUI Computer Science majors, and I will simply be there to assist them.  I can't wait to see what kinds of games the students will produce.  

Every year I look forward to this competition. At the same time I hear people saying they cannot teach programming in public schools, I see kids teaching themselves some really great things.  Not only are they learning to program, they are demonstrating art, music, problem-solving and mathematical skills.

I'll post a few of the best games here after the competition.

We're trying to get this event accepted at the national level. I believe this can introduce thousands more students into computing and programming in a way that is fun and safe.  Drop me a line if you have questions about this event, or especially if you're interested in helping us promote this event in other states. (You don't need to know anything about programming to run the event.)


Last changed: Mar 22 2012 at 11:45 AM