Howard High School Team places first in Alice Programming Competition | Best Of
For eight days this fall, Howard High School participated in the Alice Programming Competition hosted by Mercer University. The competition occurs twice each school year. Each competition has a special theme related to the time of year. The fall 2013 Alice Competition occurred November 4 through midnight November 12, which overlapped Veterans Day and Election Day making the title “Elect Alice.” This year 32 schools from Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, South Dakota and Texas competed.
The Alice Competition consists of four problems where students have to create a three-dimensional scenario. The students enter the competition through the courses Beginning and Intermediate Programming and Introduction to Digital Technology. The students are able to work on the competition at school during those class times or at home if they download the free Alice software.
Teacher Joe Finkelstein jumped right into Alice his first year at Howard High School. This is his fifth year and ninth competition for Alice. Howard has taken first place in seven of those competitions.
“We were hooked from the beginning," he said. "Alice is a great opportunity to see the kids put their work out there and get graded. There were a lot of students who were excited about it. Alice is a competition the students love to love or love to hate. It is a great way to learn about algorithms and the thinking process of taking the next step and what you have to do to get there.”
The students have several days to complete the assignments given. A grading rubric is also given. The students are encouraged to do each assignment to maximize their points on the rubric. Each student is given three submissions where they are allowed to submit the assignment, receive a score and improve the assignment to resubmit. The most recently graded submission is used for a final grade, and scores can go down.
Howard High’s “Giant Yellow Tigers” secured first place, making this their fourth consecutive win. The team includes Daniel Pham, Nick Carlson, Zach Carlson and rookie Cameron Wright, who replaced graduate Christopher Cannon.
Zach, a junior, was tasked the first problem, titled “Veterans Air Day Show.” Zach said beneficial aspects of the competition included, "the experience, teamwork and cooperation with our team, and getting better at programming as a whole.”
This was the first time Cameron, a junior, competed in the Alice Programming Competition. She was given the second problem, which asked her to craft a school election where two students gave their speeches to a large audience. She had to create an auditorium with signs for the candidates, make each candidate show off a special skill and more.
“Each time you do a problem you learn something new," Cameron said. "There are always little things to be learned.”
Nick, a senior, completed the third problem. His assignment was titled, "Veteran’s Day Drill Team.” He was tasked to form a team of 16 soldiers and design each key on the computer keypad to command them to perform fancy marching drills.
He said he enjoys, “going through each year and getting to see how the problems change every year and how they pick a certain theme where everything goes with the theme and winning the competition. There are always new people coming in so the competition is always changing."
Daniel Pham is a senior at Howard. He concluded the competition with the fourth problem named, “Tallying up the Votes.”
Daniel said his favorite part of the Alice Competition is the problem solving aspect and trying to find the easiest way to do a problem.
"It is funny that when I look at the problem I will do it the simplest way and still get a lot of points for it," Daniel said. "I have learned the way to win is to do the least amount of work for the most points.”
Other Howard teams also took home third and fifth place. The “Green Skittles” seized third place. Team members include Erin Rodenroth, Jason Wise, Weijie Zhang, and Jeremy Poston. The “Eagles” took fifth place with team members Alexis Brezial, Trinity Choo, David Dixon and Gregory Render.
All four members of the “Green Skittles” entered the competition for the first time this fall.
“It was difficult still getting used to the program and still learning how to do everything while trying to complete the competition in eight days,” said Erin from the "Green Skittles."
Howard students plan to compete in the Alice Programming Competition again in the spring.
- Emily Brunner