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James Clemens High School students earned awards in the Team Programming Challenge, which the Alabama Consortium for Technology in Education sponsors. In the photo, students practice for the competition in 2020, before COVID-19 closed schools. CONTRIBUTED

Alabama Consortium for Technology in Education awards James Clemens

MADISON – Awards were plentiful for the Computer Science Team at James Clemens High School in the Team Programming Challenge, an initiative with the Alabama Consortium for Technology in Education or ACTE.

Approximately 70 students and 21 teams competed. The event was the largest programming competition in computer science in Alabama history, team sponsor Kayla Brown said. Brown teaches precalculus and computer science at James Clemens.

Students must know one of four programming languages: Java, C++, Python or C. “However, most students are very familiar with several of these programming languages,” Brown said.

Students Xander Corvalan, Ian Lane, Freddy List and Tai Phan earned first-place honors. Ethan Cook, Logan Cook, Duke Yeom and Justin Yoon ranked in second place. Koury Harmon, Steve Jung and Jackson Lanier were third-place winners. These students competed in Level 5, the highest-level division for grades 11-12.

In Level 4 for grades 9-10, first-place winners were Pranav Somu, Joshua Wang and Jeremiah Yang.

Although divisions are separated, all levels faced the same set of problems.

Normally, the University of Alabama in Huntsville hosts the district-level challenge, and Auburn University at Montgomery conducts state-level contests. However, the pandemic required an online platform.

“Therefore, at a senior ACTE director’s request, Jerry Zheng, a James Clemens sophomore, ran the whole competition from his online contest platform, which he actively manages,” Brown said. “Jerry (defined) all programs/questions and wrote all test cases and solutions on the contest platform. This platform allows the students to submit their code and then they’re judged automatically.”

The competition’s communication was completed virtually over Cisco Webex. The competition was hosted on the platform MCSC (hosted on Amazon AWS Server).

The competition was set up to run on Jerry Zheng’s contest platform through Amazon Web Services Lightsail. Participants had 1.5 hours to solve and write code for as many problems as possible. Different types/levels of questions are Hard/Red, Medium/Blue and Easy/Green).

The type of question determined the points that a team received. For each problem, students submitted their code. “The unique part about this competition is the live scoreboard. Submissions are graded live, and scores posted to a central leaderboard in real time. Teams can track each other’s progress,” Brown said.

By entering the challenge, students can solve real-world problems “on the spot, preparing them for industry. The time limit … develops skills in time-sensitive problem solving. Overall, (competition) improves programming, time management and teamwork/communication skills,” Brown said.

Corporate donors support ACTE’s outreach in different regions across the state.

At James Clemens, any student can join the Computer Science Team. The team typically meets weekly to learn new algorithms, practice old problems from competitions, learn new programming languages and collaborate with peers with the same interests.

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