Building Blocks

AP Computer Science Competition

12/05/2016

 The tension in the room was palpable as Michael Scaramuzzino’s AP Computer Science students went through some last minute mental calisthenics in preparation for the ultimate computer science showdown: the hardware build-off.

            Teams of three students went head-to-head in a round robin-style competition that required them to fully dismantle a Dell computer, reassemble it, then reboot the system. Team JIM—Joanna Kleszczewski ’18, Isaiah Jones ’18, and Morgan Sperry ’17—won not only the first round, but the full team competition.

            “That was so stressful,” said Sperry. “I know I sprouted some grey hairs.”

            The trio had practiced the team build in class earlier in the week, and felt ready for the challenge.

            “There were very specific things that each of us needed to do,” explained Jones. “There were eight components that had to be removed then reconnected. We knew what part of the process we were responsible for, and focused on that once the competition started.”

            Scaramuzzino’s students had been studying computer hardware for the past few weeks. They learned to identify the individual hardware components, and to understand how they were connected, both physically and functionally.

            “It is important to understand how the parts talk to one another,” notes Scaramuzzino, “to understand how the computer operates. One of the challenges of this lab was to get the computer to boot-up after putting it back together. If one component was missed or not plugged in correctly, the students would have to open the computer again, find the mistake, and correct it, which could allow the slower, but more precise team to win.”

           Team JIM’s win in the round robin competition was solid, but some of the competitors were not willing to go down without a fight—leading to a second throw down. Working in pairs, students faced off once again, this time in a one-and-done, single-elimination competition. Team Win—Nick Winicki ’19 and Raya Petrova ’17 took home the gold.

            Observed Jones: “You can’t spell Winicki without a win." 

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