The Indian Computing Olympiad (ICO) is the very first stepping stone to higher programming aspirations, such as the UNESCO-recognised International Olympiad in Informatics for all school kids. Many brilliant minds have begun their remarkable programming endeavor with outstanding performances at this milestone, and it’s once again time for new talents to shine.
This year’s Zonal Informatics Olympiads, the first round of the ICO is scheduled for December 19, 2020, and the registrations are now open. For those who are still sitting on the fence, and weighing the pros, let’s look at what makes ICO one of the most crucial junctures in the journey of a programmer.
Back in 2016, home-schooled student Malvika Raj Joshi managed to get admission into MIT with some help from her spectacular performance in the IOI (which included two silvers and one bronze). She was able to represent India at the IOI credit to her acing the ICO. Malvika was initially rejected by the IITs in India due to her lack of a 12th-grade certificate. However, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a provision of accepting medal winners from various Olympiads. This is how Malvika got a scholarship to pursue her Bachelor of Science over there. In 2016, while speaking about her speaking about her love for programming at such a young age, Malvika said
“When I started unschooling, that was four years back; I explored many different subjects. Programming was one of them. I found programming interesting, and I used to give more time to it than to other subjects, so I started liking it at that time.”
The bold decision to take Malvika out of school was her mother, Supriya’s. While working with an NGO that provided aid to cancer patients, Supriya came across kids in the 8th, 9th, affected by the disease. This triggered the realization in Supriya that she valued her daughter’s happiness more than conventional knowledge. After managing to convince her partner to take Malvika out of school, she set up a classroom simulation in their house and started tutoring Malvika herself. The result was great as after this, Malvika represented India at the IOI for three consecutive years. Malvika’s story is proof that your will to learn how to code is extremely important.
As more students try their best to replicate the fantastic feat that Malvika achieved, it is necessary to help them identify the first steps a student must take to qualify for the IOI. Every year the Indian Association for Research in Computing Science (IARCS) hosts the Indian Computing Olympiad. This computer programming competition is responsible for selecting and sending 4 Indian students to the International Olympiads in Informatics. For a student, the journey to IOI includes three main steps. The Zonal Informatics Olympiad is the first step and one of the two ways a student can qualify for the second round – INOI. The other way to be eligible for the second round is to participate in the Zonal Computing Olympiad. Additionally, since 2017, students are allowed to participate in both these zonal-level competitions simultaneously. However, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, there will be no ZCO this year. Thus, to participate in ICO 2021, clearing ZIO is mandatory, and the only option.
ZIO is a written paper, and the answers to most of the questions in this paper lie in algorithmic techniques. The 3-hour long paper requires students to solve an 80 mark paper. After clearing this round, the students move forward to the INOI. Over here, 30 odd students are selected for further training at the International Olympiads in Informatics Training Camp (IOITC). The IOITC is usually a fortnight long and consists of some intense training sessions. Then the competition gets even more challenging, as only 4 of the chosen 30 get the opportunity to represent India at the IOI.
Preparing for the ZIO includes mastering the syllabus, identifying your gaps, and scheduling your time accordingly. It is also recommended that you check out the mock tests and question papers from the previous years to brush up on your skills. You can find an extensive list of these on the CodeChef website here.
As the cherry on top, CodeChef will also provide a learning program to school students (Class 6 and above) to help prepare them for ICO. The learning program will include weekly sessions conducted by volunteers covering the relevant topics. These sessions will be free of charge. Only students who have registered for ICO 2021 can participate in this training. To enroll for the CodeChef ICO 2021 Learning Program, let’s encourage students/parents to fill this form at the earliest.
The best performers of the Indian Computing Olympiad also receive certain benefits that include full sponsorships at certain universities and special consideration from popular colleges like IIIT Delhi and Hyderabad. Additionally, winning big at the IOI also has its own benefits as certain universities like the National University of Singapore provide special consideration to IOI medalists. In contrast, others like The Faculty of Mathematics and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology give scholarships to students that win a medal in the IOI.
The first rounds of ICO 2021, ZIO will be held this December 19th, and the last date for registration is 7th December 2020. You can head on over here to register for the ZIO and get more information about the competition. Students can also reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for anything they might need.