Early in January this year, three Year 11 students - Alexander Nichols, Lachlan Cove and Memphis Marshall - accompanied Digital Technologies Teacher, Mrs Michelle Chomiak, flew to Sydney for the National Computer Science School's Summer Camp.
It is an amazing opportunity for aspiring and capable students in Computer Science and is run by the Australian Computing Academy over an intense 10 days. Entrance is by application, with only a limited number of students given the change to attend.
The Camp brought together 120 of the smartest teenage minds from around Australia, and connected them with inspiring industry mentors, with university tutors leading the way. A handful of selected teachers also attended as students, and learned alongside the talented young people.
Based at the University of Sydney, students stayed and ate at the Women's College, attended lectures at the Abercrombie Business School, and took part in workshops in the computer labs at the School of Computer Science. Students chose to take part in the Web Stream where they got to write a chatbot that interfaced with a virtual assistant (e.g. Alexa), or the Embedded Stream where they learned about electronics and robotics, and created a health-related game using movement. Every NCSS student got to take home their own Microbit.
It is such a great program and experience, with one participant commenting "It's like drinking from a fire hose". The meme game was strong, and this year was no exception with questions about sandwiches. There was also a game of "Murder" with published results that students could reverse-engineer to figure out the algorithm. Apparently, it is always more fun if you get to 'murder' your own teacher! We walked 11km most days between the Women’s College, lectures and labs, but this was balanced out with a full all-you-could-eat buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
Lachlan said that the NCSS experience was a life changing, and helped him extend his coding and robotics abilities. "Being at the Women's College meant that we could start early and end late, which helped us get a head start on the day, giving us time to do all the fun activities at night. It was great being able to meet so many other people that enjoy similar things. I really hope that in future, they will implement a similar thing in Perth. It was a phenomenal experience and one that I will never forget."
Memphis was just as enthusiastic: "At NCSS I was in the embedded stream, which meant I was working on a level closer to the hardware, with small boards called Micro:Bits. We learned how to program these boards and use Python to write drivers for other pieces of hardware. Our final project was fairly open-ended, but had to be fitness based. Our group used radio communication to make a project that used five different Micro:Bits (two robot controllers, two robots and one master controller) in which two people would compete to get their robot to escape from a maze and, at intervals, players would have to do different exercises. While this was the main focus on the Summer School, we also visited the sponsor companies and participated in team games and challenges in the evenings. Overall, it was an amazing ten days and I would definitely do it again.”
Alex also enjoyed the Camp, saying that he would highly recommend that students Year 9s and 10s apply for the program. "You learn many new skills and you don't need to know coding beforehand. It is also a great way to meet new people and make connections across the country.
Congratulations to Alexander, Memphis, and Lachlan for being the first-ever students from St Mark's to attend the camp. What a great opportunity to extend your knowledge and skills with the best in Australia. A special mention to Memphis for being selected as his group's award winner!
We look forward to having more students from St Mark’s attend NCSS in the years ahead.