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HP CodeWars: Are YOU smarter than these kids?


Guest blog written by Matt Heitner, HP Communications


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My, how far things have come in 16 years.

HP CodeWars, a day-long computer programming competition for high school students, blossomed two weekends ago, with code writing challenges at locations in Houston, Texas, Roseville, California and Taipei, Taiwan. Well over 600 high school students participated in this year's event, which took place in an atmosphere that was part dorm room, part classroom.


While there's no doubt the students participate to put their coding skills to the test, part of the appeal is that they can learn while having fun, dressing up for the costume competition, winning prizes, and, yes, putting their own spin on the Harlem Shake.


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"That's the formula for success," said Harsany, who also praised the 100-plus HP employee volunteers who staffed the event in Houston. "Everyone leaves with a huge smile on their face, a t-shirt, and a great experience."


That silly-yet-serious spirit was also on display at Taipei competition, where Eugene Callegari, ISS Platform Software Manager, and more than 40 HP employees hosted the first challenge held outside of the United States.


"I'd say the competition was huge a success," said Callegari. "We had 120 students and 32 teams — and all of them were excited to be there. Next year, we're hoping to have four times that turnout."


It ain't rocket science—but it's a start


As in past years, the teams were grouped according to skill level (novice or expert) challenged with 21 creatively named problems such as Sweet Sixteen and Return of the Vowels.


This year, the Houston site also welcomed a TV crew filming an upcoming episode of It Ain't Rocket Science, a U.S.TV show designed to encourage investment in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. STEM education is essential across the globe in preparing future generations to compete in the workplace. This is specifically true for girls as women continue to be underrepresented in STEM professions.


Harsany estimates young women make up 35% of the participants in Houston, while the first event in Roseville, led by Ken Duisenberg, included two teams from an all-girls high school.


HP employee Jennifer Nicole Maxwell understands — she participated in the 2005 and 2006 competitions as a student. "My advice to students today would be to find out what you want to spend your life doing, and then to throw yourself into it with your full heart," said Maxwell, a systems/software engineer in the ISS Platform Software organization. "That makes a huge difference, and it opens so many opportunities that you wouldn't expect."

Harsany hopes those opportunities include working for HP.

"I'm hoping that soon, these kids will be working for HP," he said. "They're the best and brightest. We want them to love what they see at HP and come back and work for us."


Do you think you have what it takes to be a code breaker? Take the challenge.


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