A friendly programming and robotics competition

Since 2018, the educational services of the Center de services scolaire de la Capitale have offered teachers a computer programming contest that targets the deployment of a digital culture in its establishments. It's time to register for the 2022 edition.

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By Martin Baril, Pedagogical Advisor for Mathematics
Capital School Service Center (CSS)
with the collaboration of Sonya Fiset, educational advisor
National service of RÉCIT, field of mathematics, science and technology and Martine Bélanger, educational advisor of RÉCIT, CSS de la Capitale.

Since 2018, the educational services of the Center de services scolaire de la Capitale have offered teachers a computer programming contest that targets the deployment of a digital culture in its establishments. More specifically, the competition is intended to be an important lever for the development of programming skills, both among students and teachers.

The deployment of the annual competition is divided into four stages: registration, support, final and recognition. The solicitation for registration is done by targeted emails and through a website. The latter offers some explanations, the challenge to be carried out and the prizes. 

Scan the code to access the contest site.

To promote adherence, examples are provided. The languages used are of the block programming type. Discover the website of the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 editions.

The accompaniment by educational advisers remains an essential element to promote the adherence and participation of teachers. Thus, two or three meetings are planned to present the programming platform and introduce participants to basic concepts such as sequential and parallel programming, iterative and decisive structures, the use of variables, troubleshooting and management. sensors in the case of robotics. 

Teachers are encouraged to identify expert students in their class who have the potential to become resources for their peers. Some students quickly become better than the teacher. It can be destabilizing, but we must focus on all the help that can be given!  

Courtesy Martin Baril

action research

For the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 editions, the support that prepares for the CSS de la Capitale competition is part, among other things, of a research-action carried out in collaboration with the University of Quebec in Montreal. (UQAM) and led by Professor Fabienne Venant, from the Mathematics Department. 

This association makes it possible to work on programming/robotics in connection with the concepts and processes of the Quebec School Education Program (PFÉQ) in the field of mathematics, science and technology. It broadens and enriches the professional expertise as well as the financial support of the competition through the professional development of teachers, the main benefit of this association. 

In this sense, action research promotes the updating of effective practices in the integration of computer programming in the classroom and the exploration of new modes of continuing education around these practices.

Courtesy Martin Baril

Model evolution

The final is the third stage of the deployment. Due to the pandemic, the completion of this step had to be redesigned to ensure it is safe for everyone. It is in this context that the 3e edition of the programming competition (2019-2020) was canceled in March 2020. At that time, respect for class bubbles did not allow gatherings as for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 editions. For this year, we have reviewed the organization of the final, and it can now be held, respecting the pandemic reality and ensuring the safety of the participants.   

In this perspective, the challenge of the friendly contest does not require a major infrastructure, it is measured in time and takes place entirely at the participants' school. To determine the best time, each teacher must plan, with the organization of the competition, the moment (date and time) when the participating students perform.

The teacher plays the role of referee by filming the participants while ensuring that the date and time of the moment are illustrated and that the execution time is rigorously measured. The teacher then sends the organization the video sequence of the best time so that the winner is proclaimed among all the participants. This adjustment also made it possible to open up the friendly competition to classes outside the CSS de la Capitale.

Recognition is the fourth and final stage of the competition. The class of the winner(s) is entitled to a visit to the NorLAB research laboratory, specialized in robotics, at Laval University. During this visit, the students attend demonstrations, and certain handling privileges are granted to the winners. Participation prizes are also offered to finalists and teachers who participate with their students.

Courtesy Martin Baril

Since the 1st edition, more than 150 students took part in the competition. More than 40 teachers got involved, several of them repeated the experience. For the CSS de la Capitale, it is reasonable to believe that the event is an excellent lever for developing programming skills. It is in this perspective that the organization envisions a promising future.

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