It was Star Wars day (May the 4th, 2013), and the “force” was certainly with us at the CodeChef Meetup. There weren’t firecrackers lighting up the sky and neither was there the greatest Jedi Master, Yoda giving philosophic lessons to the attendees. However, there were bunch of right people at the right place. The CodeChef meetup was organized to launch our new initiative CodeChef for Schools, aimed at promoting programming among school kids. So, what better way than having Prof. Madhavan Mukund, President and Member, Executive Council, Indian Association for Research in Computing Science (IARCS) and Executive Director, International Olympiad in Informatics, Mr. Bhavin Turakhia, CEO, The Directi Group, Mr. Kunal Shah, founder of Freecharge.in and Mr. Aakrit Vaish, Director India operations, Flurry Inc. Along with those big names, we also had the members of Team Fringe from IIT Bombay, that has qualified for this year’s ACM ICPC world finals to be held at St. Petersburg National Research University, Russia – Aakash N S and Vinod Reddy G. The audience comprised of students from various Mumbai Colleges. And of course, there was yours truly, Team CodeChef.
The agenda for the day was CodeChef for Schools – the initiative aimed at bettering the computer-programming scenario in India at an early age. And hence the event was flagged by letting the young students take the stage. Members of Team Fringe opened the session by sharing the wealth of their experiences into the world of competitive programming. They told us that they weren’t as well acquainted with computer programming in their high school as they would have wanted to. This lack of awareness affected them, as they started their competitive programming journey on the SPOJ. They acknowledged that had there been such a platform when they were in school, they would be better prepared. They took several questions from the eager audience, who asked them about how they prepare, which books they refer and about their approach towards solving competitive programming problems. Watching them answer these questions was sheer joy. The Q&A session with the students was a perfect ice breaker to set up a friendly tone for what was about to come.
After the students, we were joined by Bhavin, on video, for the official launch of the initiative. In his address, Bhavin shared with us his story of how he got into programming in his school days amidst the challenges that he faced. How the lack of infrastructure, proper guidance, and incentive did not deter him from going ahead with his passion. Furthermore, he spoke about the Directi Go for Gold program aimed at his ambition of bringing the gold prize at the ACM ICPC to India. And how that ambition has led to the Go for Gold initiative being extended under the CodeChef for Schools program. Now it aims at Indian school students bringing the Gold medal at the IOI. He ended his speech with a plea to the audience to join the program and help take programming to schools. He ceded way to Prof. Madhavan to take the podium.
Prof. Madhavan, has been associated with IOI and IARCS for about ten years now and has deep understanding of computer programming scenario among school students in India. In his address to the students, he shared how IARCS in affiliation with the CBSE has been working towards promoting programming among the Indian school students. The program has been growing slowly and steadily. Yet, there is still a lot of work to be done. He also gave an insight on the training that is conducted for the students who are selected for these training camps held every year before the final 4 are selected to go for the IOI world finals. He also highlighted how many ACM ICPC world finalists from India in the past have been the students who have attended the IOI training camp when they were in school.
However, he feels that in India, the awareness regarding the significance of competing in contests like IOI is very low. Especially when we compare it to countries like China and the USA. This is where he feels that an initiative like the CodeChef for Schools can be useful and that it can work in bettering the programming scenario in Indian schools. In the last segment of his address he took several questions from the students. Questions on the eligibility for participation at the IOI, the books that should be read while preparing for such competitions were among the frequently asked one. By the end of his talk, we started seeing members in the audience getting eager to volunteer for the CodeChef for Schools initiative by promoting programming in their respective schools.
After Prof. Madhavan, Mr. Kunal Shah addressed the audience and shared his valuable experience which he learnt during his entrepreneurial journey of conceptualizing freecharge.in and making it a fruitful business venture. He spoke about how technology is changing the world around and how youngsters acquainted with computer programming can be an integral part of this change. Students seemed to have enjoyed the session with Kunal, as it taught them how they can excel in their respective fields despite taking some unconventional routes. Session with Kunal was followed by a few valuable words from Mr. Aakrit Vaish, Director India operations at Flurry, Inc. He spoke more about how to stand out from the crowd and to make the most of your talent.
Now that the motivation was flowing, we took a small break from the proceedings and gave everyone some time to interact with each other. Meanwhile, to fuel up everyone some flavors in the form of snacks and beverages were served. Students were seen enthusiastically interacting with each other while gelling well with the dignitaries present. However, some were seen focusing only on the Samosas and upon closer inspection, they turned out to be members of our team. Yeah, we were hungry.
After all the motivation, encouragement, and awareness talks, it was time for some fun. Shilp Gupta took over. We played a game in which the awesome CodeChef goodies were up for grabs for the winners. The game required the members of the audience to interact with each other to come up with the answer to the questions posed by Shilp and they were all seen jumping here and there in search of the perfect partner. Entire floor was filled with energy and fun, and no one was in the mood to see an end to the game. However, the game did not brought an end to the fun. Our team members, Suraj Sharma and Gaurav Munjal had something else planned out for everyone and it was brilliantly executed. If you haven’t already seen it, you must see it here.
It was time to put an end to a successful meetup, which had everything, from learning, to being crazy. To conclude the event we held a small feedback session, which had students giving their feedback about CodeChef, CodeChef’s contests and the meetup. The session brought to us some nice suggestions, which we were all ears to and we intend to work upon.
If you are disappointed that you missed the CodeChef Meetup, do not be. You can relieve some moments of the meetup here. And, you can be part of such CodeChef meetups in the future and even you can hold such Meetups at your school and college. How? It’s simple – just get in touch with us with your agenda for the meetup and we can help you organize and publicize the event.
If you wish to join our CodeChef for Schools initiative, drop us a mail with your details at email@example.com. We will get back to you with the necessary details. Alternatively, you can also connect with us on our Facebook page CodeChefForSchool and also on our Facebook group.
So, what are you waiting for? Get up and take the initiative. Together we can make a change.
If you have any queries, suggestions, or you want to say something special, you can always write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.