In the 1980’s the huge popularity of the Sinclair ZX range of computers and other home computer products created a whole generation of “coders” or “computer programmers” in the UK and in many other countries as well. Very soon Britain was a world leader in the field of programming, and the effects have continued to be felt to the present day as that particular generation matured and moved up the computing careers ladder.
Our launch of the ZX Vega National Schools Coding Championships in 2015 is designed to stimulate the growing interest in coding amongst the current generation of schoolchildren, and thereby to create a similarly enthusiastic generation of coders for the UK in the coming years. We plan to make this an annual event and our aim, eventually, is to have the vast majority of UK schools taking part. We have devised a format for the championships which we are confident will make the event relatively easy to manage, and the first Grand Finals will be held shortly before the end of the school year, in July 2016.
The championships are being organized in parallel with the Every Child Can Code scheme. We are making available from our web site, free of charge, all the software utilities and tuition needed to enable pupils to develop and test their programs.
The Different Divisions of the Championships
The championships cater for all schoolchildren who are able to code and we are therefore organizing divisions both for primary/prep and for secondary/independent schools (including sixth-form colleges). Programs will be written in BASIC.
Each school may submit one entry which must be a game program. It can be an arcade game, an educational game, an adventure game, or any other type of game. There are no restrictions or guidelines – schools and their pupils are free to allow full rein to their creativity. A school which has both primary/prep and secondary/independent sections may submit entries for both of them.
For each division there will be prizes and titles for school teams at the national, regional and county level. There will also be national individual prizes and titles for the best individual pupils whose solo-developed programs have been selected as their schools entries for the championships.
The format we have devised for the event will be the same for each division (primary/prep and secondary/independent), and can be understood from the following summary of the rules, which apply to both of them.
The Format and the Rules
The biggest problem facing the organizers of an event such as this is how to judge the program entries submitted for the championship, especially given that we expect to have hundreds (eventually thousands) of schools taking part. The format that we have devised, which is loosely based on the principle used for judging the Eurovision Song Contest, solves this problem by requiring each school entering the championships to assist us by comparing and ranking five of the other entries in their division. Schools who fail to perform this task will have their own program entries disqualified, so there is plenty of incentive for the competing schools to participate in the judging process. No school will be told which school has entered any of the five programs they are asked to judge, and the system will ensure that each school is given five entries to judge that are all submitted by schools far away from themselves.
- A school may enter only one program. (Primary/Prep and Secondary/Independent parts of the same educational establishment are treated as different schools for the purposes of the championships.)
- Each program must be the work of one or more pupils at their school and no-one else. There is no limit to the number of pupils who may contribute work to a program entry. We expect that in some schools there will be multiple individual pupils and multiple teams of pupils who wish develop programs for consideration as their schools entry into the championship. It is up to each school to decide how to organize its own internal competition to select the program that will be the schools entry.
- Before submitting their entry a school is expected to fully test their program, running in the BASin “coding teacher” software, which is available free of charge from our web site. If an entry does not run in BASin when it is being judged, the program will automatically be disqualified.
- Program entries must be submitted to arrive not later than May 15th 2016. This allows pupils to complete their work on their program during the Easter holidays. Entries must be sent to: championship@EveryChildCanCode.org together with an entry form completed by a teacher at the school. There will be a £50 entry fee per school.
- Shortly after the closing date for entries we shall send each competing school five of the games submitted by other schools within the same division. These other schools will be chosen so as to be geographically distant from the schools judging their entries. Each of the competing schools is expected to encourage a number of its own pupils to play the five games their school is judging, and to discuss and comment on each of those programs. In this way a school should be able to provide its own ranking (from best to worst) for the five programs submitted to it for judging. The two teachers who are named on their schools entry form are expected to lead and oversee this ranking process in a conscientious manner.
- A schools rankings of the five programs submitted to it for judging must be sent to the organizers to arrive not later than June 15th 2016. Any competing school which fails to submit its complete rankings by that date will have its own program(s) disqualified from the Championships.
- All the ranking lists submitted by competing schools will be processed by a computer program that will calculate the county, regional and national ranking for each schools entry in the Championships. These calculations will be based on a well tried and tested statistical method for ranking the competitors in various game and sporting contests.
- Within each division the highest ranked school in each county will be awarded the title of County Champion School for its division, and will be presented with an appropriate certificate.
In the primary/prep division, if the County Champion School is a prep school then the highest ranking primary school will be awarded the title of County Champion Primary School, and vice versa. So the highest ranking primary school in each county and the highest ranking prep school will each be awarded a County Champion title and certificate.
Within each division the highest ranked school in each region will be awarded the title of Regional Champion School for its division, and will be presented with an appropriate certificate and a prize. The regions are: Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Northern England, Central and Eastern England, South of England.
In the primary/prep division, if the Regional Champion School is a prep school then the highest ranking primary school will be awarded the title of Regional Champion Primary School, and vice versa. So the highest ranking primary school in each region and the highest ranking prep school will each be awarded a Regional Champion title, an appropriate certificate, and a prize.
- All of the regional champion schools in both divisions will be invited to a central location for the Grand Finals.
- At the Grand Finals a panel of judges will be able to try out all of the finalist programs in a division. There will be a different panel for each division. Each school at the Grand Finals will be required to provide the judges with a 250 word description of their entry, pointing out the most important and interesting aspects of their entry. Each school will also be invited to have one of its pupils make a 5-minute oral presentation to the judges, about their entry. After the completion of all these presentations the judges will be able to try out the programs themselves, with the pupils from the competing schools assisting them and answering the judges questions. The judges will then retire to consider their decisions as to which programs will be placed first, second and third in each division.
- In addition to the school championship titles described above, there are individual titles for the best programs developed by a single pupil, provided of course that the program has been selected by the pupils school as their entry for the championship. This means that in order to be eligible for the individual title a pupil must develop a program that is judged by their own school to be the best program the school has to enter.
The highest ranked such program in each county will earn the pupil the individual championship title for that county. The highest ranked such program in each region will earn the pupil the individual championship title for that region. And for each division, the highest ranked program by an individual in the whole country will earn its developer the title of “National Individual Coding Champion” for the appropriate school division. Appropriate prizes and certificates will be awarded to the various individual champions.
For more information contact:Â Â Â championship@EveryChildCanCode.org