Every month, Awesome Kingston awards a $1,000 grant to a local project that the trustees think will keep Kingston awesome. This month, BSS Elementary School Computer Competition was awarded the honour.
With this project, Jon Swaine, a teacher at Bayridge Secondary School (BSS), hopes to spread the love of and enthusiasm for computer science to elementary schools.
“The BECC (BSS Elementary Computer Competition) is a contest that is run by me and the 30+ students who are a part of the Bayridge Computer Specialist Program (BCSP) at BSS,” Swaine said, noting that the BCSP “enriches the computer science experience.”
“We invite students in grade 7 and 8 to form teams of three, and they compete against other teams to see who can solve the most computer-based problems in one hour.”
This year, the competition is on Thursday, April 28, with the grade 7s competing from 4 to 5 p.m. and the grade 8s competing from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Swaine said that there will be a guest speaker, Dr. Josh Marshall, who is a part of Ingenuity Labs at Queen’s University, and the event will be fully catered by the Bayridge Culinary Department.
“The inspiration for the contest came from a few different places,” Swaine explained. “Firstly, I have to give credit to my beautiful wife, Jaime Swaine, who runs an incredible mathematics department at BSS and they ran a similar math contest before COVID happened. In the computer science realm, I ran the first ever contest last year, strictly online, when COVID was ruining all in-person experiences that we hold so dear.“
Swaine said that the number of students and parents who were thankful for the opportunity to participate was overwhelming. “I thought – this needs to happen annually. For a lot of these students, athletics might not be their thing, and having the opportunity to participate in a competition like this is something they really value and means a lot to them,” he said. “In addition, in this day and age when everyone has a high-powered computer in their pocket (their ‘phone’), it is essential that students learn more about how they work and get inspired to possibly follow a path to a career.”
Some of the Awesome Kingston grant money will be used to purchase computer-based educational products that teams can “win” for their class and take back to their school with them. Swaine said that, hopefully, it will help spread the joy of computer science, and provide his high school students the opportunity go into the elementary classrooms to teach them how to use their prizes.
“I’m proud that the BCSP has grown a lot in the past few years as more and more students find their passion for computer science. It is my hope that, by running this competition and having the kids get involved and have tons of fun, they might find their passion and learn more about the discipline.”