It was in the year 2009 that we had started CodeChef. The goal was clear. We wanted to improve and expand the Indian programming community.
Over the last four years, we have taken some steps towards the goal. Today, it won’t be grossly incorrect to say that students in most of the top tier engineering colleges in India are making use of the platform.
It was in 2010, that we had launched the Go For Gold program and for the first time the CodeChef team visited the ACM ICPC Regional site to meet the participants in person. It was an awe inspiring moment for us. We met and interacted some of the brightest minds of India. On an excursion with these students, we also visited an engineering college, which could at best be termed a tier-2 college and interacted with the computer science students. And there we witnessed another reality. The students did not know what an online judge is.
The experience of meeting the two ends of the spectrum was humbling. It made us realize that there is still a long way to go for us . We came back more inspired. While winning the gold at the ACM ICPC by an Indian team remained to be an ultimate dream, another started creeping in. To try and remove this disparity between the students of the same subjects in different colleges. The task was not easy.
There were multiple options and our resources were limited. We were determined, we knew we had to do something but did not know what exactly.
On much pondering we felt that “Catching them young” seemed a reasonably compelling way to go. Making students aware of programming when they are in middle or high school and much younger will give them more time to explore, learn and love the subject. Although, how, was still a question to be answered.
We started talking to people. Our users, previous year ICPC winners, professors, and teachers. When the ICPC World finalists from India won the Go For Gold Cup for improving the best ever rank attained by an Indian team, we got a chance to speak to them in person. And this time the idea that we have been pondering about got some backing.
Now the question was what could be done to involve the young guns? Organizing training camps to get them started will be a good way to start. We had received a lot of feedback from people in favour of such trainings. But training was not something that we are skilled at. And more importantly was training scalable and sustainable?
We only knew competitive programming. We had only learnt that. We have believed that competition scales more than anything else. And after many discussions with various people, the idea took shape.
CodeChef for Schools took birth. As a part of this initiative, we want to target students in the middle and high school from across the globe and get them started to competitive programming. And we hedged our bets on the International Olympiads in Informatics. IOI seemed to be a right goal which the students can be made to target. IOI is to schools what ACM ICPC is to colleges and universities.
There are various issues that the Indian students face. This program aims to identify and address them. To ready the Indian students for the world stage, we’ve created a new programming series “LunchTime” specially for school students to give them a competition similar to the IOI and a practice ground to build their skills. The first contest of the series starts this Sunday.
It will be an ongoing contest to be hosted on the last Sunday of every month.
Though it is open to all for participation, it is specially meant for the middle/high school students. There will be separate rating system to be implemented for them.
A student will be identified to be studying in a school based on the entry that he makes in the “Institution” field of his profile page. For this to happen, we will be cleaning up our Institution database. As a part of this exercise we will be removing the entries that we do not understand. This may mean that some of you loose your institution entry. Once we clean that up, we will urge you to enter your institutions once again and choosing it correctly.
The other details of the of the contest can be found on the contest page. We urge you to come and participate and also spread the word among the school community.
There is very less participation from India at the IOI. Hence, we have extended our Go For Gold program to the Indian school students. As a part of this program, we will be giving away cash scholarships worth of 5 lakh+ rupees to the Indian student who wins the Gold medal at the IOI.
CodeChef For Schools is a small first step towards a big change to follow. And, we realize that we cannot do this all by ourselves. We will need your help. If you think we are doing something right and if you are willing to contribute some of your time, together, we’re assured that it can be done.
It is only right for us to acknowledge the support of our community to get this initiative in place. There are many people who have helped us continuously in terms of providing us much needed suggestions and help. We would like to thank them all and also acknowledge the guidance of Professor Madhavan of the IARCS for his continuous support in shaping up this program. We also want to thank Code.org for the awesome video that has inspired us a great deal and we are sure that it will continue to inspire a lot of other people.
So let us join hands and work towards making the young guns program a better tomorrow.