Computer science contests are a great way to get your students involved in something outside the classroom. It gives them an excuse to do something above the assignments you create and use their competitive side.
If you’re not already competing, check with other teachers in your area. There may already be contests going on.
And if you are competing, maybe it’s time to think about running your own contest.
Benefits of hosting a contest
It’s a fundraiser
First one that pops up in most schools is that a contest can be a decent fundraiser for your computer science club.
Most contests charge for each team that competes. Depending on how many teams come, and how much you charge, it can add up to thousands of dollars. Contests around my school typically charge between $30 and $40 per team, and some contests are pushing 100 total teams.
In addition to charging for teams, you can also sell concessions. At the contest we host we have a concession stand and sell drinks, candy, and pizza to the teams. Concessions brings in a few hundred dollars. We usually break even with pizza though after buying pizzas for the coaches.
Real world practice
Let’s face it. Classroom assignments only take your students so far. You’re probably trying to find ways to tie the world outside your classroom into your teaching.
Putting together a contest will tie in several areas of computer science.
First one will be creating the contest materials. Your students will need to plan out what they want to make and then build it. That gets into project and time management.
One group will probably be in charge of concessions or registrations. This will let the interact with customers, even if the customers are teachers and students from other schools.
They’ll also get to experience setting up the hardware necessary for the contest. This is going to go into networking and running power for all of the team computers.
Practice for other competitions
I’ve also found that setting up a contest helps students get better at competing. By understanding the process that goes into writing contest problems you’ll probably find that your students do better solving programming problems.
How to host a contest
We’re going to have to save that for a future post. If you scroll down a bit you should see links to other posts in this series that cover what you need for a contest; from getting started, to hardware and network equipment, to actually running the contest. Click through to see how it’s actually done.