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Winners of Wolfram’s First Demonstrations School Coding Competition Announced

August 6, 2012 — Wolfram Blog Team

Wolfram Research today announced the winner of its first Demonstrations competition as Michael Lawson from Ermysted’s Grammar School, North Yorkshire, with runners-up Patrick Stevens, Woodbridge School, Suffolk and David Harris, St. Dunstan’s College, London. Michael’s Demonstration, “Recursive Dungeon Generator,” was a particularly good showcase for applications of programming—in this instance, for game design.

“I was working on creating my own Rogue-like game, and I was experimenting with different ways to generate rooms. This was one of my own algorithm ideas,” said Michael, who, although he has been programming for four years, only started using Mathematica recently. “I actually only learned how to use Mathematica for the purpose of the competition. I started creating my demo after having only watched a few of the videos recommended for entrants, and then finished about four days later!”

All three of the winning entries are published on the Wolfram Demonstrations Project site alongside 8,000 other user-created programs.

The idea of the competition was to promote the application of programming in schools and support the UK government initiative to bring programming into schools.

“We were keen to put coding in context,” said Conrad Wolfram, CEO of Wolfram Europe and judge at the forthcoming Young Rewired State. “Making a Demonstration is about creativity, clarity, and communication–as well as coding.” Conrad continued, “Programming is often associated purely with computer science. But this competition shows it’s also the way you represent and communicate technical ideas–a cornerstone of maths. That programming is back on the UK schools agenda is a great start.”

The Demonstrations competition judges, who had varied backgrounds to help assess the wide subject matter that Wolfram Demonstrations have, included:

  • Maggie Philbin
    BBC/TeenTech
    Best known for her work on “Tomorrow’s World,” she now dedicates serious effort with TeenTech to alert young people to the opportunities available in science and technology.
  • Dr. Stephen Lynch
    Manchester Metropolitan University
    Instrumental in establishing a schools liaison forum in the northwest of England, he regularly visits schools to talk about the fun, beauty, and many applications of mathematics. Dr. Lynch also has an international and UK patent published–the research could potentially lead to faster computers and cures for certain brain disorders, including Parkinson’s disease.
  • Dr. Bobby Phillips
    BAE Systems
    His career has spanned teaching, industrial research, and manufacturing, including stints at Queen Mary College, London, and the University of Kent in Canterbury. Prior to joining his present position, he was with the antenna department at ERA Technology (now Cobham Technical Services) in Leatherhead, Surrey. Since March 1999, he has been with BAE Systems, where he is a systems architect and senior EME consultant.
  • Dr. Stephen J. Christie
    Neural Insights Limited
    Stephen is the CEO of Neural Insights, a global strategic management consulting firm, where he has responsibility for clients’ high-performance growth strategies, risk management, technology, and artificial and business intelligence solutions. Stephen built and programmed his first computer at the age of ten and is a strong advocate for the introduction of programming as a core element of education.

Wolfram Research also sponsors computerbasedmath.org, a project that aims to build a completely new math curriculum with computer-based computation at its heart. Sessions exploring the wide potential for both computer-based math and programming will also be covered in depth at The Computer-Based Math Education Summit this November.

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