• Final IOI conference reveals future of informatics competitions and education

    by  • July 11, 2013 • Chris Woods, Rose Maksoud, stories • 0 Comments

    dagiene valentina introducs the days guests

    Professor Valentina Dagiene, of Lithuania’s Vilnius University, introduced Wednesday’s conference and its speakers. Photo by Rosie Maksoud.

    While students undertook their final exam, some of the world’s top computer scientists and researchers offered a glimpse into the future of informatics.

    Wednesday morning saw the final IOI conference. Topics ranged from a history of Latvian informatics education to a six-volume analysis of the Olympiad’s journals.

    Professor Valentina Dagiene, of Lithuania’s Vilnius University, is on the Olympiad’s International Committee and is responsible for IOI conferences, and was excited about the diversity of topics represented.

    “Leaders, committee members and other researchers and teachers join us to listen to our research, to our reports on what we’re doing before and after Olympiads,” Prof Dagiene said.

    “In the conference we focus on tasks, grading systems, training students, and what we do in our countries, because here we have over 80 countries.

    “And all of these countries have national Olympiads; we train students, we create tasks. This is a kind of academic and training community.”

    Belgian computer scientist and PhD student Sébastien Combéfis revealed his website, Interactive Learning of Programming and Algorithm Design Skills (ILPADS), which is designed to support both students and teachers in learning informatics.

    “It’s an online platform that can be used by teachers in secondary schools to help teach their pupils what is programming and algorithmic thinking. And to help them learn programming, not directly but through problems,” Mr Combéfis said.

    ILPADS incorporates three activities: problems via interactive animation, which are used to build algorithms in students’ minds, finding a solution to the problem by executing a flowchart, and lastly, translating the solution into programming “language”.

    “[Students] start with an interactive animation, which they can play with, and try to concretise the idea that they have in their mind,” he said.

    “They then have to find a way to solve it by playing and finding a way to communicate it to the computer, because in the end the goal is to have a program written on the computer.”

    Mr Combéfis said the website will easily translate to any language and, hopefully, be available by December.

    “The goal is to make the teachers in secondary schools do activities with their pupils in class, because there is no course about computer science, at least in Belgium,” he said.

    “So there are no secondary school teachers of informatics.”

    But the Olympiad itself inspired a number of lectures, notably for the first presenter.

    Associate professor Martin Mareš, of Prague’s Charles University, spoke first about a new system designed to help with the management of contest computers via batch execution.

    “At most programming contests, which are run in the style of the IOI, there are really hundreds of computers that handle the contest,” Asst Prof Mareš said.

    “We have hundreds of contestants with his or her own machine, then we have a lot running in the background operating services like grading, or the competition system and so on.

    “And it’s not actually an easy task to manage this amount of machines.”

    Asst Prof Mareš’ system would help manage the contest’s background programs.

    a number of visitors and team leaders watch the event

    A collection of team leaders and international delegates attended and spoke at the event. Photo by Rosie Maksoud.

    Martin Marse starts the event with his presentation on batch execution

    Assistant professor Martin Mareš, of Prague’s Charles University, began the conference with his presentation on “Computer Maintenance via Batch Execution”, which focused on the management of contest computers.

    sebastien c talks about iplids an education tool

    Belgian computer scientist and PhD student Sébastien Combéfis then introduced “Interactive Learning of Programming and Algorithm Design Skills” (ILPADS), a website designed to support both students and teachers. Photo by Rosie Maksoud.

    iplids trains students to solve basic problems to develop informtic skills

    ILPADS incorporates three activities to teach students programming and algorithm design skills: problems via interactive animation, shown above; organising the solution’s steps via a flowchart; and finally, translating the solution into programming “language”. Photo by Rosie Maksoud.

    Halim Steven answers questions about his presentation on the Singapore teams training

    Dr Steven Halim answered questions about his presentation on the Singapore team’s training and results over the last three years. Photo by Rosie Maksoud.

    martins opmanis gives a lecture on Latvian olympiads

    Researcher at University of Latvia and team leader Màrtiṋš Opmanis gave a thorough history of informatics education and competitions within his country. Photo by Rosie Maksoud.

    simon analyses the olympiads journals

    The single-named Professor Simon, of Newcastle University, operated as an external reviewer of the International Olympiad’s journals. Photo by Rosie Maksoud.

    simon reveals his master scheme

    Professor Simon revealed his master scheme to analyse the journals, specifically the scope and nature of the papers. Photo by Rosie Maksoud.

    sebastien watches the other presenters intently

    Mr Combéfis watched intently as other experts gave presentations. Photo by Rosie Maksoud.

    ries kock talks about Dutch education and scoring

    Ries Kock, Chairman of the Dutch Olympiad, gave an overview of his country’s competition and style of scoring.

    Speakers recieve presentation certificates

    Speakers received a certificate for their presentations. Photo by Rosie Maksoud.


    Chris Woods is studying for a Bachelor of Journalism/Arts, with a dual major in Writing and Film & Television. He is in his last year of study and will complete his final semester at the University of Stony Brook in New York. Chris intends to focus on science and political journalism, and intends to begin work in local radio next year.

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