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31st Great Computer Challenge Brings Tech-Savvy School Kids to ODU

By Brendan O'Hallarn

The Great Computer Challenge, which started as a programming contest at Old Dominion University in the 1980s, has grown to become an eagerly anticipated event for technologically inclined Hampton Roads students from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Now in its 31st year, the Great Computer Challenge will attract teams from dozens of local schools to two events - the senior challenge, for students from 6th to 12th grades, on Saturday, March 5; and the junior challenge, for students from kindergarten to fifth grade, on Sunday May 14.

The Great Computer Challenge is a joint project of WHRO, the Consortium for Interactive Instruction and Old Dominion.

It provides competitions for students in various aspects of computer applications, such as desktop publishing, computer music, web design and integrated applications.

Doug Streit, Old Dominion's campus coordinator for the Great Computer Challenge, said exposing students - through fun competitions - to the opportunities available in STEM-related careers can benefit society. It can also be a game-changer for the participants themselves.

"We have several people working in technology-related positions at Old Dominion who were exposed to campus, and to computers, through the Great Computer Challenge," said Streit, director of information security at Old Dominion. "That fits with the ultimate goal of our events every year - to solve real-world problems with technology."

Streit's passion for the event is evident. He recently appeared on a segment on WHRO's "Norfolk Perspectives," along with another event volunteer, a local schoolteacher and a student looking forward to participating. View the panel discussion, hosted by Bob Batcher, HERE.

For this year's event, Nancy Grden, executive director of Old Dominion's Strome Entrepreneurial Center, is welcoming participants to campus. And since so many entrepreneurs have made their mark in technology fields, the Strome Center is providing coaching and a peer-mentoring opportunity to winners of select events in the senior Great Computer Challenge.

The Great Computer Challenge was launched in 1983 when Grace Little, then-director of academic and web technologies at Old Dominion University, had the idea to host an annual programming contest. Twenty teams of local high school students were invited to compete in basic computer programming using ODU's mainframe computer. ODU faculty members came up with the programming problems and judged the students' solutions.

Since the partnership with WHRO and the Consortium for Interactive Instruction began, the Great Computer Challenge has grown to include hundreds of teams.

For more information about this year's event, see the Great Computer Challenge website.

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