MSHS Team Solves First Four Problems of Coding Challenge

By Terry Hawthorne

screenshot of Scratch project showing sports headline

This screenshot show Team EC's Scratch-driven solution to the first coding challenge problem: a program that can generate sports headlines, given the names and scores of the two competing teams. Scratch is a programming language developed by MIT to help beginning programmers master computer science concepts.

Marion Senior High's Team RedWulf is the first and only team to complete the first four innings of the Coding Challenge. RedWulf has earned maximum points by completing the first four problems and bonus questions and is at the top of the standings with 483 points. They made extensive use of Microsoft Excel to solve the data analysis and visualization challenges in the second and third inning problems, including the difficult analysis of the Algebra I SOL student performance by question data. The team also submitted a highly detailed Excel spreadsheet for problem four, which required competitors to develop a spreadsheet solution to enable the head groundskeeper at Boston's Fenway Park to forecast the direct costs of maintaining the park's turf for an entire season.

RedWulf has really excelled at the bonus questions. They developed an Excel worksheet as part of their response to the second inning's bonus question on how sports teams can use data to improve their performance. They described how the IBM Watson cognitive computing system could be used to improve the performance of 3D designs, and came up with an idea for a new social media site that I am not going to reveal publicly, because it has commercial development potential that they may want to explore further.

Rich Valley Elementary's Team EC remains in second place overall and in first place in the elementary division. EC was the first team to solve problem two of the Coding Challenge. Team EC imported the problem two data extracts into Google Fusion Tables and used that software's summary tools to identify the most popular names for boys and girls in Smyth County Schools, as well as two other data questions. Team EC also solved the batting practice problem and problem one, using MIT's Scratch programming language, to earn a total of 63 points.

Screenshot of headline writer input and output.

This screenshot shows three runs of Team RedWulf's headline writer. The lines that begin with terryh@solar:~$ are the commands to start Python and run the headline.py script. (I'm running the script on a Linux system named solar.) The script prompts the user for four pieces of information: names and scores of each team, plus a yes/no response on using "harsh" verbs. (Harsh verbs are reserved for blowout games involving pro or high-level college teams.) For the first two runs, I used this fall's Chilhowie/Marion game, which Chilhowie won 20-19. On the first run, I used singular names for the teams: Chilhowie and Marion. On the second run, I used plural nouns: Warriors and Hurricanes. You can see that Team RedWulf's code handled the subject-verb agreement perfectly: Chilhowie Nips Marion 20 to 19 and Warriors Nip Hurricanes 20 to 19. For the third run, I used the Clemson-Miami college game and set the harsh verbs option to yes. That resulted in Clemson Destroys Miami 58 to 0. Note that it didn't matter whether I entered the winning team's score and name first or second. The program sorts out the winner and can also handle ties.

Middle School Standings

King David, a Northwood Middle School eighth-grader, earned three points for solving the batting practice challenge, and is our current middle school leader.