Local students showed off their talents in using technology recently at the 2019 Senior Division of the Great Computer Challenge (GCC). The GCC is a joint project of WHRO, the Consortium for Interactive Instruction and Old Dominion University that provides an opportunity to recognize student achievement, foster teamwork and introduce students to a college environment. Teams of up to five students compete in categories such as Desktop Publishing, Object-Oriented Business Programming, Graphic and Web Design, Music Composition, Video Editing and more.

This year was the 34th annual competition, and 92 teams gathered at Old Dominion University to show off their skills as they competed for the top prizes. The annual technology competition for Hampton Roads students has grown so much throughout the years that it is split into two events - the senior challenge (grades 6-12), which was on March 9; and the junior challenge (grades K-5) which will take place May 4.

Each team is given a problem to work on and must complete it in the time allowed. Their task involves producing one or more items. For instance, in the Video Editing category, the winning team from Westside Elementary were provided with raw materials to create a promotional video for the Virginia Aquarium. Teams must also meet any listed requirements given in their challenge. For sixth graders Kelson Sowden and Daniel Butts, music became the biggest obstacle to be overcome. "We had a specific set of music choices to choose from, and most of them didn’t fit with the atmosphere of video, so that was our only challenge," explained one of the team members.

Winners in the Programming-Object-Oriented Business category had to create a game as well as an app that would deliver invoices. The three-member team from St. Matthew's Catholic School included Noah Avis, Jason Lo and Gavin Carey. When asked if they plan to consider a future job in programming, members weren't sure but said they do see the value in having programming skills. "It’s really fun and I know there are a lot of business opportunities for it," one of them explained.

This year’s competition once again included a category for Cyber Security, which was first added to the competition last year. This is a career field that has seen an increase in demand in Virginia. Competition organizers expressed excitement at adding categories like this one because they continue to see employers seeking students who have learned to apply classroom skills to real-life scenarios. 

For teachers, one big appeal is not only the real-world training but the fact that students have so much fun competing. “I enjoy seeing the kids getting excited about what they are doing,” said Ms. Katy Adams, a teacher from Gloucester High School. “The students enjoy being challenged, spending the day with friends, and they learn how when they work hard—success is in the future.”

See the full list of winners.

The Junior Division of the GCC happens on May 4. We still need volunteers! Interested? Learn more.