Competition and Challenge is what pushes innovation and allows us to become better and surpass our limits. — Anonymous

Google’s Code In, the programming competition for High Schoolers aged 13–17 was already coming to an end once I discovered it through someone’s question on Quora. There were only 6 days left but that did not stop me from joining the fun.

The competition itself consists of so-called Tasks which participants could claim and the work on over a set period of time, helping the companies that took part in GCI. Those tasks ranged anywhere from Beginner tasks that only took a few hours to complete to more advanced tasks asking coders to implement new features or to kill some bugs.

To incentives students, there are digital certificates and T-shirts being awarded to people who complete one or three tasks respectively as well as hoodies and a grand prize of a trip to San Francisco, where students got to see Google’s HQ, for the finalists and winners of each organization.

For me, the complete competition was a really great learning experience. Over the past 4 days, I have discovered a new Git Version Control System, a new Git review system as well as learned how to add images on Wikipedia and Wikimedia sites. Furthermore, I finally learned how to use IRC, which I surprisingly never used before. I met some really great people, from mentors (thanks Nemo_bis) over Google employees to fellow coders and contributed to two major open-source companies. If you ask me those days were definitely a big success. The tasks were mostly easy to solve once I figured out how to solve the difficult parts, but hard enough to give me the satisfaction of actually accomplishing something.

The best experience I had was for sure Wikimedia, the organization behind Wikipedia. Their mentors were very helpful, quickly replying and always polite. It was a pleasure to work with every single one of them. The tasks were very interesting and had me translate descriptions, submit patches and add screenshots and information to Wikimedia’s sites. I overcame some cool challenges and learned a lot, as well as managed to take a deep dive into the immersive community of both Wikimedia and open-source. I’m definitely looking forward to being involved with both in the future and can’t wait for the next GCI to happen.

The only minor difference I’d like to see would be a little bit of more explaining on some tasks. The instructions on most tasks were very clear, but some you had to ask for crucial details over the IRC channel. For example changing JSON files that had British English to American English had some of the info necessary, but there was a lack of information where the Repositories could have been found as well as a guide on configuring git to work with their server. Once I asked in the IRC channel I got all the info, but it would have been nice to also see that in the description. That is my only suggestion, as everything else was exceptionally good.

Taking my experience into consideration I can only recommend anyone and everyone who is reading this and in high school to take part in next year’s Google Code In. It’s free, you contribute and give back to the community while competing for an amazing journey into the tech giant’s heart (or Headquarters at least). Go over to their site and check it out for yourself www.codein.withgoogle.com
Not in high school anymore but at university? Consider taking part in Google’s University open source program called Summer of Code. You can find out more about it here.