Over the summer holidays, I participated in the National Computer Science School alongside students all across Australia. NCSS is a 10 day summer school for students in Years 11 and 12, offered in both the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne. Though I cannot speak for the University of Melbourne programme, I can definitively say that the NCSS programme hosted by the University of Sydney proved to be one of the most richly rewarding experiences I have ever embarked upon.
NCSS was divided into two streams, and I was fortunate enough to be allocated to the web stream. In this stream, every one of our workshops, lab sessions and projects was geared towards teaching us about the software behind many web technologies. The expertly presented workshops taught us everything from the fundamentals of Python to the mathematics behind various data structures. Lab sessions allowed us to use what we've learnt, applying our knowledge of Python to solve a series of progressively more sophisticated problems. The project was the final culmination of all we had learned, and entailed working collaboratively to build a chatbot in order to solve a problem of our choice.
My NCSS experience had several key highlights. One of these was the site visits, where we travelled to the offices of Macquarie Bank, Freelancer and CommBank. Another was the unsupervised excursion, where we were allowed four hours to roam the city of Sydney freely (I chose to play laser skirmish and see the Sydney Harbour Bridge). The cryptography competition was certainly the most exciting of the experiences offered by NCSS. In teams of three, we were required to use our programming knowledge to encrypt Wikipedia pages in any way we chose. At the same time, we were also tasked with decrypting the codes of other teams to score bonus points. This was a novel, challenging and immensely enjoyable activity which necessitated the expertise of each and every member of our team.
But possibly my favourite part of NCSS was the all-nighter, where we worked towards completing a project before seeing what every other group had been able to put together. NCSS took place right in the midst of the Australian bushfire crisis, and so the chatbot our group devised served the purpose of informing, empowering and preparing those at risk. Among its long list of features was the ability to report the fire danger, air quality and UV index of a user's current location, along with the capability to generate a unique Fire Readiness Plan for each user. It was also integrated with Amazon's Alexa, making it a convenient way to be ready for the bushfire threat. Seeing the project come together was extremely satisfying, and presenting it to other groups was even more so.
For me, NCSS was more than just a fantastic learning opportunity or an especially engaging challenge. It was an enriching, inspirational journey which I will never forget. A journey that has me more eager than ever to pursue a career in computer science.
For more information on National Computer Science School click on the below link or view video by clicking picture below: https://ncss.edu.au/summer-school