Senior High Problem Solving
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Postponed -- This competition has been postponed till May 2000

We are awarding the prizes and marking the Problem Solving Programming Competition in a different way this year.

Click here to get to the Problem Solving Competition Entry Form

Major Rule Changes

  • Marks for Planning -- To discourage what is perceived as 'hacking' in the problem-solving components of the competition, participants will be required to spend time away from the computers to design their solutions. For this reason, the first 15 minutes of each session is designed as planning time. No computers are to be turned on during this time. Computers which are put into 'sleep mode' are NOT considered to be turned off. Competitors will be provided with "carbon-less" copy papers onto which to place their plans. One sheet will be handed into the judges for marking at the end of the planning period. The marks for planning will be around 50% of the marks for one program in Part A of the competition and no more than 20% of the marks for one program in Part B of the competition. More details on allocation of marks on the competition day.

    The judges will be looking for an indication of your plans. These might include

    • Details of subroutines you've brought in and plan to use.
    • Details of subroutines you plan to develop
    • Data flow diagrams
    • Processes, formulas and equations needed to solve the problem
    • Functions names laid out to show the flow of your program
    • Segments of appropriate code or pseudo code
    • Dialogue Boxes
  • Marks for ease of judging -- In the past we have asked competitors to prepare a one page instruction sheet to be submitted along with the answer diskettes at the competition. Competitors in the past have received zero marks or caused the judges many problems because of lack of these prepared instructions. These year we are actually allocating marks for these sheets and how well they explain the computer's operation. The marks for this information will be around 50% of the marks for one program in Part A of the competition and no more than 20% of the marks for one program in Part B of the competition. Further details on the actual marks for this section will be given on the day of the competition.

    This sheet should explain how to start the computer and run the program. ASSUME THAT THE JUDGES ARE NOT FAMILIAR WITH YOUR COMPUTER AND YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM. Bring two copies -- one for each of Part A and Part B. Judges do not have the time to make extensive tests to try and run your code. See below for more information on what should be on the judges' information sheet.


The problem solving competition will be held in two parts

  • Part A: Teams will attempt to write four given problems which are to be completed (and saved to 2 diskettes and the hard drive) in 90 minutes.
    • Each program in part A is worth one half the marks of programs in Part B.
    • These programs are designed to utilize common tasks and skills in the programmer's daily life
    • The difficulty of the programs in Part A are designed so the average team will complete all the tasks in 1 program but is unlikely to complete all tasks in three programs. Teams should indicate which programs they wish the judges to mark.
    • Give the skill levels in the Senior High School Competition, there have been times in the past where competitor's have completed all four programs but been in the top 3 team placements,
  • Part B: Teams will attempt to write two given problems which are to be completed (and saved to 2 diskettes and the hard drive) in 60 minutes.
    • Each program in part B is worth twice the marks of programs in Part A.
    • The difficulty of the programs in Part B is deliberately higher than the difficulty of programs in Part A. The average team will be unlikely to complete all tasks in both programs. Teams should indicate which programs they wish the judges to mark.
    • Given the level of difficulty of programs in Part B of the competition, it is possible that a team may complete NEITHER program but still place in the top three teams.

The problem-solving competition will be judged using criteria such as

Clarity of identification

  • The program should clear the screen on start-up
  • The name of the team members, the number and program name should then display.
    • Competitors are ENCOURAGED to bring in a pre-written subroutine / function to perform this task.
  • The program is saved using the correct name specified on the question sheet.
  • Information to the judges on how to run the programs (Prewritten information permitted)

Programming skills

  • The program contains no programming or logical errors
  • Does the program show evidence of memory leaks or core dumps
  • The program makes use of modules, e.g. subroutines
  • The program closed cleanly on exit.

Operation of the program

  • The program loads and runs without errors.
  • The program is user friendly, giving clear instructions of what needs to be entered and how.
    • The program should contain error trapping for incorrect input.
    • Competitors are ENCOURAGED to bring in prewritten subroutines that they can call to perform these tasks.You lose an advantage if you have to spend considerable time reprogramming these standard components.
    • You may use dialog boxes, custom input routines or another method of input as long as the program will accept the input the judges' sheet requires
    • The program must provide the opportunity to automatically allow the judges to make a second attempt at test data.
  • Does the program return the answer requested in the question, with the correct formatting, level of precision and detail requested?
    • The output can also be a Window, Dialog Box, custom output routine or plain text. The judges will be instructed not to mark these routines, just the data that appears as a solution to the problem.

Planning -- logical organization

  • Did the competitors outline a plan of attack for the first question and one other using the allocated planning time?
  • Was the planning complete in that it accurately represented the final product and how to proceed with the problem?
  • The competitors are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED BEFORE THE COMPETITION to develop and code input routines that perform basic error checking and generates/handles suitable prompts and I/O.

Teachers and parents are strongly encouraged to accompany participants to help set-up equipment and load software, provide moral support. They may not remain in the competition room during the competition and, under any circumstances be permitted to help participants during the competition.

Please note the following

  • Teams may make use of only a SINGLE computer, with a single keyboard, during the competition.
  • Competitors are ENCOURAGED to bring in on a disk, pre-written input subroutines, capable of handling basic errors. This would allow competitors to focus on the coding of the central concepts of the problems and encourage the use of structured programming techniques using reusable code. Judges will check that basic input error handling is being performed. Examples of prewritten subroutines can be found on our Web page.
  • Examples of previous years' problems, solutions and judging criteria can be found on our web site.
  • Different sets of problems are available for each division of the competition -- Elementary, Junior High and Senior High.
  • Participants may use any programming language for the problem-solving competition.
  • Back-up requirement to diskette -- Participants MUST bring the following to the competition:
    • FOUR diskettes, formatted for the appropriate computer. Each disk will contain a brief start-up program containing the names of the team members, their team number, the name of the school and the name of the sponsoring teacher/computer co-ordinator.

      Two of these disks will be used to save the solutions for Part A of the competition. Two of these disks will be used to save the for Part B of the competition

    • All four diskettes should be prepared with the required introductory start-up program BEFORE the competition.
    • System software for booting up the machines (DOS, Windows-95, Logo etc.). Utility programs required for making backups are also permitted.
    • Manuals and reference materials are permitted with the consent of the judges. Reference sheets may contain definitions of commands, but may not contain sample programs.
    • Required computer equipment.
    • Any compilers and editors required to operate your program must be available to the judges at all times.
  • Do not apply locking programs. Competitors in the past have received zero marks because judges could not access their code!

Information sheet for the judges

Leave the instructions on top of the keyboard. Remember that the judges are trying to mark 500 programs in 3 hours. We don't have the time to hack!

Assume the judges know nothing -- show them exactly

  • How to boot the machine
  • How to run the program
  • How to bring up the executable
  • How to bring up the source code
  • Anything else that might be useful

If we can find the students to solve the problem before we start marking the PART B questions, we will then mark the questions. If we can't find the student in time system then the team gets zero.

It is the team's responsibility for ensuring that the judges can access and run their programs. The following are some of the problems we have had to solve in the past

  • We could not find the directory, and,
  • The diskettes had no back-up files
  • The judges over-wrote the files by mistake and there were no back-up diskettes (Not this year, but on a previous occasion a team in 1st place lost because of this!)
  • Crazy operating system set-up that kept crashing (the judges are not familiar with the 120 different systems)
  • Kept on having to go through password locks (get rid of them before coming to the competition)
  • Crazy special effects and loud music meant the judges could not see what was wanted. It might have been there, but the student got zero.

    The best one

  • Student took all the answers written on a lap-top home before the judges could do the marking.

Please note
  • The decision of the judges is final. Clarification of any points in the Rules section is available on request.
  • Computers and peripherals brought to University of Calgary will be tagged with an ID number, the equipment recorded, and a matching ID number will be given to the owner. Security WILL NOT allow the computers to leave the building until the owner shows the tag to the guard indicating that the equipment is rightfully theirs. This clearance will only be given AFTER 3:00 PM on Saturday, Computers once brought in will not be allowed to leave until this time!
  • SO FAR, no problems have arisen with loss of property, and it is hoped we can continue providing a secure environment. Security Services at University of Calgary will be operating throughout both days of the competition. However, SAIT, The Calgary Public Board of Education, The Calgary Catholic Board of Education, The University of Calgary and the Calgary Region Computer Programming Society WILL NOT accept responsibility for ANY loss or damage to equipment or software.

Last Modified:- 1999, May 16, 05:58 PM by M. Smith