Schools Computer Olympiad gets open source focus

By   |  April 11, 2005

SA learners taking part in the CSSA Computer Olympiad this year will be able to put their skills to work on open source software such as Python and stand to win up to R100 000 in prizes. The new focus on open source software for the Olympiad has been boosted by the investment of more than R300 000 by the Shuttleworth Foundation and the CSIR.

The schools Computer Olympiad is also sponsored by Standard Bank.

\”We live in a world driven by information and technology. The banking industry too has experienced a technology evolution in recent times, driven by the growing sophistication of our customers. Competent staff is therefore critical to our performance. Our extensive range of skills development programmes and support of initiatives such as the annual Standard Bank/CSSA Computer Olympiad have successfully contributed towards our skills set in the marketplace,\” says Michael Murphy,
Standard Bank Corporate and Investment Banking IT.

\”Open source is the best platform for software engineering education, as it exposes the student to every aspect of operating system, toolchain and application design. I\’m thrilled to see South African students using open source tools for the Computer Olympiad as it gives them the best grounding for their future in the software industry,\” Mark Shuttleworth,
Shuttleworth Foundation Founder says.

\”Python, a new language for the Olympiad, is uniquely positioned as a glue language and I believe it has a great future both in education and in industry. It\’s a favourite language in the open source world, and the skills demonstrated by the winners in the Python competition will no doubt stand them in very good stead in the years to come,\” Shuttleworth says.

The combined investment from TSF and the CSIR totals R300 000, which will be divided between six prizes for the top
performers in the Python category, supplementing the back-office administration tasks required to stage the Olympiad and providing for participants\’ travel arrangements as they progress to the final rounds of the Olympiad.

The top six Python users will be eligible for a total prize of R100 000. \”That means R30 000 for the top Python user; R20 000 each for the first and second runners up; and R10 000 each for the fourth, fifth and sixth best Python users,\” says Thomas Black, Open Source Program Manager at The Shuttleworth Foundation.

The response to these prizes and the inclusion of the Python language thus far has been record breaking. More than 13 000 learners have already entered for the first round – the highest number since the competition started in 1984.

\”We are delighted to see a record number of entries for this year\’s Computer Olympiad. By supporting the youth we not only make a valuable contribution to the economy through job creation and skills development, but we also honour our commitments to our shareholders. By delivering outstanding customer service through state-of-the-art systems and technology we have established ourselves as a leader in banking technology for the personal and business markets in South Africa,\”
says Murphy.

TSF and the CSIR have also done a great deal in terms of facilitating access to the Python language. \”While Python is freely available from www.python.org, together with the CSIR we are ensuring that all
participating schools are supplied with a CD that contains the language,\” Black adds.

Moira de Roche, President of the Computer Society of South Africa says they are \”delighted that we can, in partnership with The Shuttleworth Foundation and the CSIR make the competition more accessible through promoting a relatively easy to use open source language. We are also extremely pleased with the sponsorship from Standard Bank, who has demonstrated their commitment to developing talented young people in this country through the competition.\”

Entry to the Standard Bank/CSSA Computer Olympiad is free, with the first round on April 15 2005. While the Computer
Olympiad will accept late entries, these must be facilitated through the participants’ school.

For more information see www.olympiad.org.za or email info@olympiad.org.za.

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