St John’s Computing students make their mark

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St John’s Computing students make their mark

The Computer Science teaching staff at St John’s offer students a wide range of opportunities to get involved in external competitions and challenges. St John’s has had a wave of successes this term, in the Oxford University Computing challenge, the CyberFirst Girls Competition regional final, and the First Lego League Robotics competition.

Oxford University Computing Challenge success

On 17th January almost 90 students from across St John’s sat down to take part in the Oxford University Computing Challenge. It was already an amazing achievement just to be taking part, as everyone had previously finished in the Top 10% nationally of the UK Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge, out of almost 330,000 initial participants.

The entrants were warned it was going to be tough, the OUCC is designed to be almost impossible to complete, with the aim of identifying the top student in the country in each age range. However, St. John’s students had all put in a good amount of practice, giving up their lunchtimes and doing extra work out of school, and were keen to see what they could achieve.

In the Junior Category we had some really outstanding performances, with Henry Thomas achieving a Distinction and making it into the top 50 out of almost 107,00 entrants, only missing out on a perfect score by 3 questions. Josh Bosher, Zavier Zebedee, Reuben Davies and Ewan Holdsworth were all close behind, each achieving a Merit in the competition.

In the Intermediate Category, things went even better. Year 8 student Henry Mann (left) achieved a perfect score, finishing joint first in the country out of almost 186,000 year 8 and year 9 students, and qualifying for the final in March, which will crown the ultimate champion. He was closely followed by Arthur Ramsden and James O’Connell who both distinguished themselves by achieving a Merit and making it into the top 500.

The Senior Challenge took things to another level, with the new format, focused entirely on text-based programming, proving a real challenge. Guy Sainsbury and Niamh Taylor both excelled, achieving good scores and making it into the top 500 out of just over 37,000 entrants.

Year 8 First Lego League Robotics Competition

On January 25th St. John’s sent two teams to participate in the First Lego League Robotics Competition. The teams had worked relentlessly over the last two terms, building and programming their robots to complete a series of autonomous challenges. They had also come up with their own “innovation projects” where they proposed potential solutions to the energy crisis.

On the day, they were judged across a number of categories, including robot design, robot performance in the autonomous challenges, their innovation project, and their “gracious professionalism”.

Team Supernatural Legos, made up of Sam Gregory, Eoin Hourd, Thomas E., Otto Nasse, Thomas Lawrence and Jacob H. had a number of successful performances in the robot challenge, ultimately achieving the same score as the team which went on to finish 2nd, however their robot’s slight lack of consistency cost them in the end, resulting in them finishing in 7th place.



Team Unintentional Idiots (pronounced Geniuses), made up of Maja P., Nicolet Pegler, Jason Perna, Sam Murgatroyd, Henry Mann, Noah Mainwaring and Gilli Groves had some good runs in the robot challenge and also received a special mention for their innovation project – a thermoelectric generator built into a mobile phone case which would harness heat generated by both the body and phone to recharge the phone’s battery.


Report by Thomas Lawrence, of the Supernatural Legos

We had built a fully functioning Lego robot over the course of two terms and on we travelled to Bristol to compete in the competition. When we walked in we were assigned a pit to work in and split up from the other team from St John’s that had entered.

We were asked to display our innovation project, a way of generating renewable energy. This was the first chance we had to show off our robot and the code that we had programmed into it. A few of the challenges failed but overall it was a success. So, we went over to the practice table and corrected some of our code.

Second time around we did much better and moved into the top 10, however again we made a few mistakes. Before our third and final round, the judges asked us about our robot design, and we explained how we had used counterweights to counteract the weight of the motors.

The final round was our last chance to show what our robot could really do. We had an almost flawless run and missed out on being in the top 6, and moving through to the finals, by one place. We ended the day with a dance party on the disco floor as they handed out the awards to the winners, before driving back to St John’s.

Year 8 CyberFirst Girls Final

On Saturday 4th February, St. John’s took a team of year 8 girls, Tabitha Aldred, Lizzie B., Samantha C. and Beatrice Granger to compete in the South West Finals of the CyberFirst Girls Competition.

The team had already done exceedingly well to get to the finals, finishing in the top 12 out of almost 600 teams that entered the regional qualifiers.

But it was now time to step up the intensity and see how many challenges they could solve in a very limited time, under the pressure of watching their adversaries celebrate as they progress through the competition, and seeing their team name move up and down the leader board.

The girls were excited to be taking part, and to be getting the chance to have a look around the competition venue, the Defence Academy in Shrivenham, where they got to see all kinds of military equipment, including tanks, fighter jets and helicopters.

Although the day proved to be incredibly stressful, with leader boards and countdown clocks being displayed on massive screens around the competition floor, the girls had a great time. They demonstrated just how much they’ve learnt, by solving all kinds of problems in topics such as cryptography, data representation, coding and logic, networking and cyber security, and even offline challenges like hacking NFC readers and solving puzzles.

In what turned out to be a really hard fought and competitive day, the team were really pleased to finish in 7th place. It was a really inspirational event and has definitely served its purpose in opening the girls’ eyes to potential careers in IT, Cyber Security and computing.




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