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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Student, a Past Winner in Great Computer Challenge, Signs on to Help Judge 2013 Contest

Onapha Rattanachottiteeparkon had never spent time on the Old Dominion University campus before coming to the 2010 Great Computer Challenge as a member of a team from Norfolk's Granby High School.

The three-member Granby High team pulled off an upset in the graphic design category of the event for local middle school and high school students. And the experience made a huge impression on Rattanachottiteeparkon.

"It was awesome," she said. "We were kind of an underdog, but our team won first place and we got to keep this huge trophy at our school for the entire year. Plus, it was my first time in Webb Center, the first time that I really found out what was here at Old Dominion."

The experience tipped the balance in Rattanachottiteeparkon's college choice, and she's now a junior at ODU, studying computer science. The immigrant from Thailand, who settled in Norfolk eight years ago with her mother, works part time with ODU's Office of Computing and Communications Services (OCCS) in addition to her studies. And through an email sent to all OCCS employees, she saw an opportunity to give back to the competition that first excited her about coming to Old Dominion.

Rattanachottiteeparkon will be an assistant judge in the desktop publishing category when ODU, local public broadcaster WHRO and the Consortium for Interactive Instruction host the 28th annual Senior Great Computer Challenge on Saturday, March 9.

The event is for local school teams from grades 6-12, which will gather in Webb Center to compete in competitions ranging from graphic design, to multimedia, to video editing. The Junior Great Computer Challenge, for those from kindergarten through fifth grade, will be held April 20 in Webb Center.

The theme for this year's event is "No More Empty Chairs," an initiative of the American Graduate program to encourage students to stay in school. Great Computer Challenge campus coordinator Doug Streit, director of information security at ODU, said introducing students to the fun and opportunity of STEM-related education can help encourage them to graduate, and seek further education or jobs in a field where skilled professionals are vital to the economy.

"The goal of programs like the GCC is to help keep people in school through graduation by fostering positive peer pressure," Streit said. "Some of the competitions this year have been adapted to fit the theme of the event. For example, in the video contest, participants will incorporate footage from the American Graduate Student Film Festival."

The GCC is a popular event among local schools. Last year more than 125 teams (with three to eight members per team) filled Webb Center to capacity in the daylong competition. Streit said stories like Rattanachottiteeparkon's are common - high schoolers who are exposed to ODU for the first time and enjoy themselves tremendously when they visit campus for the GCC. He added that there are many ODU employees who are prior participants in the Great Computer Challenge.

"Onapha contacted us, wanting to take part," Streit said. "It conveys a message of success that we're doing something that really makes an impression on the students who visit ODU."

Rattanachottiteeparkon can't wait for the event, and she hopes her enthusiasm for ODU rubs off on this year's participants.

"I want to tell them that this is a great school, but they'll know that from being in the Great Computer Challenge. And I can tell them from experience that even underdogs can win!"

For information about the Great Computer Challenge, see: http://www.whro.com/home/education/cii/professdevelop/studentactivites/greatcompchallenge/.

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