It’s NCSS Challenge Time! And we’ve made some changes!

Students at the NCSS Summer School

For more than a decade, the NCSS Challenge has taught students across the world how to solve problems with code. We’ve covered everything from Pacman to Prolog, sandwiches to satellites, teaching programming, problem solving, and computational thinking. Each year, we write new questions and tweak our courses based on teacher feedback. And this year, we’ve got some exciting changes in store!

Students learning with tutor guidance at the Girls’ Programming Network

Newbies has been revised to be even friendlier for younger students, perfect for students in upper primary school! The Newbies stream is aligned to the year 5/6 Digital Technologies Curriculum, and we’ve worked hard to pitch the language for students of this level.

Beginners now more closely aligns with the year 7/8 Digital Technologies Curriculum. We’ve also made a few adjustments to the reading level here. (For those of you who are familiar with last year’s Newbies Blockly course, this stream is at roughly the same difficulty level.)

We now have 2 courses at the Beginners level, one in Blockly and one in Python. They both cover the same content and have the same questions, so you can more easily have students in your class doing either option, while still teaching the whole class together.

Intermediate now follows on from Beginners, rather than starting with the basics again. The contents of Beginners (including input and output, if statements, for loops and while loops) is assumed knowledge for this course. Students will need to have completed Beginners before or have had experience in coding to complete this stream. This has allowed us to extend the scope of the content covered, so it more closely aligns with the year 9/10 Digital Technologies Curriculum.

Students puzzling out problems at the NCSS Summer School programming comp.

Advanced is our most exciting change, with the brand new Challenge Championship! 🏆

Students will build an Artificial Intelligence (AI) to play a competitive card game, and then go head to head against other students’ AIs. We’ll teach the basics of how to build an AI, but it’ll be up to your students to figure out a winning strategy! Of course, our tutors will be on hand to assist, answering questions and offering advice.

The Challenge Championship will introduce students to more advanced topics than those covered in Beginners and Intermediate, but will be a more open ended course, and allow a better progression for students who have previously completed the Intermediate stream of the Challenge.

We’re really excited to see the fantastic strategies students will come up with to meet this challenge. With a bit of luck, a dash of hard fun and a lot of learning, they might just play their cards right and become our Inaugural Challenge Champions!

We’re keen to hear your feedback on the new and improved NCSS Challenge! We hope they’ll help teachers continue using the Challenge to introduce the implementation aspects of the Digital Technologies curriculum in a fun, supportive and engaging way. We’ve aiming for better differentiation in the classroom, more curriculum requirements being achieved, and a better progression through the streams from Newbies to Advanced to keep supporting students as they learn and progress.

Students and tutors at the NCSS Summer School

The NCSS Challenge starts on the 30th of July. You can subscribe your students here. If you’ve already got a Grok Learning subscription for your students, it’s all included! You can assign it to your students so they can get going on the right stream as soon as they log in.

For more information on the content and curriculum links click here.

What do you think of the stream changes? What games would you like to see in future years’ Championships? We’ve got a great one picked out for this year (we can’t tell! It’s a secret!) but we’d love to hear your wish list!