2 Swallows Charter Academy students take first place in Lockheed Martin Code Quest competition
Two Swallows Charter Academy students who have a passion for coding placed first in the novice division of the Lockheed Martin Code Quest held virtually on April 24.
The annual international computer programing competition is designed for teams of 2-3 high school students who work together to solve problems using JAVA, Python, VB.net, C#, and or C++ programing to complete the quest.
SCA sophomore Kevin Shu and senior Zihan Zeng discovered a passion for coding as children playing video games.
“I wanted to figure out how to make them, I was interested in the game design process,” Shu said. “I started to learn code at the time as a hobby for a while.”
To begin learning code, Shu said he began watching tutorials online. From there he found books, and with the help of his father who works in programing — and is Shu and Zheng's coding coach — Shu was able to teach himself the basics of coding.
Shu’s knowledge only expanded with the help of SCA’s concurrent enrollment, Shu was able to take a semester of formal JAVA education at the college level.
The competition is split into two divisions, novice and advanced. Because the two students have less than one year of formal coding education, they competed in the novice division taking on 39 teams from throughout the state.
“It’s a bunch of problems that are related to coding,” Shu said. “This year there were 30 (questions,) it varies each year. But they give you (these problems) in a packet, and each problem is worth a certain amount of points. Number one being the easiest and worth the least number of points to 30, the hardest and worth a lot of points.”
Over the course of 2½ hours the students work through the problems, hoping to earn as many points as possible.
Because the pandemic is still plaguing communities, the competition was held virtually. This helped the students because the scores were updated in real time.
The order that the students complete the problems isn’t controlled, so Shu and Zeng had a strategy that ultimately paid off.
“(Zeng) is really good at the math section, so he immediately went for the harder (problems),” Shu said.
Zeng said he was stuck on two problems, so he made the decision to move on and completed question 20 which gave their team 60 points and put them in the lead early on.
“The worst problems are the ones that aren’t worth much,” Shu said. “You get started on them, get halfway through, and realize there is something wrong with your approach. Then you can either choose to go all the way through, give up, or restart it. It wastes a lot of time.”
At the end of the competition, Shu and Zeng, the only team of two, earned 245 points securing the win.
This was the first year a Pueblo team participated in the competition, and Shu said next year the team hopes to participate in the Colorado Springs branch. But, with Zeng graduating this spring and moving onto college, that may provide an obstacle.
“I think next year, we’ll try to compete again, this year they merged Colorado Springs and Denver,” Shu said. “But next year, I’ll probably go for the advanced division. Zeng is going to Purdue next year, and I’ll need a new team member.”
Because the interest in coding in Pueblo isn’t as common as it is in other cities throughout the state, Shu said it may be difficult to replace Zeng because even before this year’s competition, the two were looking for a third teammate which proved to be unsuccessful.
Shu added that coding is a skill that will be useful, so his hope is that more students within the community will begin to learn the trait.
“It would be better if more people were interested in coding,” Shu said. “It’s a very important skill for the future and if more people were interested it would just be better for everybody.”
Chieftain and Pueblo West View reporter Alexis Smith can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @smith_alexis27.