Four Year 11 KLASS students were selected through a series of challenging online computer science ‘qualifying rounds’ to participate in the ‘Malaysian Computing Olympiad’. The olympiad is a three-hour long national-level computer programming competition which is used to select squads of high-school students to represent Malaysia in the ‘Asia-Pacific Informatics Olympiad’ (later on) the ‘International Olympiad in Informatics’. These competitions involve taking on problems that require a strong background in mathematics, however, contestants are required to write computer programmes in order to express their answers. The squad consisted of Zhi Wei Gan, Philip Searcy, Raka Gunarto and Krishna Ghantala, all of whom had already won awards in other competitions involving mathematics and computer science.
The group of four representing KLASS had obtained the highest total score cumulatively out of all the participating schools, winning the ‘Best Overall School Award’. Additionally, both Zhi Wei Gan and Philip Searcy won a gold medal and a silver medal, respectively, making both of them double national olympiad medalists as they had also won medals in the previous year’s olympiad. These individual awards secured the two students places on the Malaysian squad in the ‘Asia-Pacific Informatics Olympiad”, where they will compete against other high school students from countries in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Australia, China and Japan.
Zhi Wei Gan
Overall, the contest went rather well for me, my first hour being the most productive. I recall the nervous energies that filled the lounge soon after the contest, with nervous chatters and a lack of a wallowing hum that would usually fill a room of computer science geeks. Having befriended my competition beforehand, I came into the contest not thinking that I would be able to do any better than I did last year. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the awards ceremony with a gold medal. Though the contest was a truly wonderful experience for all of us, I feel that the journey which led us to the MCO takes precedence over the contest itself. Since the MCO last year, all of us have come on leaps and bounds in terms of our problem solving skills, and it has required all of us to work together, sharing resources and occasionally even teaching each other things that we have learnt. It has been an invaluable bonding experience. As I will be leaving to the USA next year, I will most likely not be able to participate in the MCO any longer. I hope to encourage future MCO participants to work hard and persevere through hard problems, with the promise that it will lead to an experience that can be cherished forever.
Having come off of several months of feeling relatively ‘burnt out’ from computer science, I was not entirely confident in my ability to replicate last year’s performance this year. Having had little practice partly due to this burnout and also partly due to the GCSE run-up, I entered the Google headquarters feeling anxious and uncertain. Moreover, there were many points throughout the competition where I was convinced that I was not going to win a medal. My fortunes changed around two and a half hours into the contest, where I was able to make a breakthrough on one of the problems and put myself into the medal boundaries. However, I still initially left the contestant rooms feeling dejected, as I was certain that I had not won a silver like I had last year. After two hours of mulling over my performance while waiting for the judges to decide the final results, I was both astonished and overjoyed to discover that I had managed to push my score over the silver medal boundary! Perhaps more importantly, the olympiad revitalised both my confidence in my own abilities and my passion for mathematics and computer science. I know now, more than ever that I intend to pursue these subjects in the future, and I look forward to more opportunities to tackle demanding problems in both subjects in the years to come!
This year, I came into the Google Headquarters with a little more confidence than last year. While I am not as skilled as my friends, I felt like I had enough practice to achieve more than a measly 20 points like last time. In fact, I had scored 100 points, just 10 points off the cutoff for the bronze award. I felt like this was a great improvement from last time as I was actually able to fully complete one problem. Although I could have done better if I opted to read some lengthy problem statements that were actually quite trivial and solvable for me. I was too caught up on one problem for some duration of the contest, so that inhibited me from solving other problems. Coming out of the contestant rooms I did not expect to be a medalist/award winner so I was quite happy to have aided the team to gain the “Best Overall School” award. I hope to be a medalist next time around and move on to the next level in the computing olympiads
This was the first time I participated in this competition as even though I qualified the preceding year, I was abroad and unable to attend. I was more than a little nervous but I was excited to participate. I hoped to do well in this but I knew I was quite out of practice, not having solved a contest problem in over one month. However, I scored far better than I expected, gaining 100 points by solving the first problem and almost scored 100 points more, losing out due to a small mistake that I was unable to find and fix. I was however disappointed that I failed to try some subtasks that would have allowed me to score a few more points. The competition was great fun and I hope to compete in the following competition.
Stewart J Edmonds
Head of Computing
Click here for this week's full issue - 5th May 2017