What is the NCSS Challenge?

The NCSS Challenge is a programming competition open to all school students and teachers. The NCSS Challenge is unlike any other programming competition. We’ll teach you how to program as we go along, rather than expecting you to be an expert already. If you’re a seasoned coder, we have something for you too – the problems range from relatively simple to mind-bendingly hard. 

The competition teaches students to code in Python 3.6. Python is an easy to learn scripting language used for many different purposes such as web applications and scientific research. Companies like Google, Facebook and Reddit all use Python in their infrastructure and web services.

There are four streams catering to students of varying ability and interest: Newbies, Beginners (Python) and Beginners (Blockly), Intermediate and Advanced Tournament.

When does the Challenge start?

From 2020, the Challenge runs twice per year - that's twice the fun! You can find all the competition dates here

How much does the Challenge cost?

To participate in the Challenge students require current Grok access. You can find out more information about this here.

Who can participate?

The Challenge is aimed at primary and secondary students, so you need to be in a school grade or be a teacher on Grok Academy to join. (Teachers can use the Challenge for professional development!). 

How does the Challenge work?

To make sure everyone can be included, we teach coding as we go along. Each week we release new notes and problems; the notes teach new coding concepts, and the problems challenge them!  Students can earn points on all problems right up until the end of the competition.

The core of the Challenge is our problems. We put a huge amount of effort into making them relevant, real-world problems that challenge at just the right level. Plus, when you're coding in the Challenge you won't just learn about coding - we'll slip in some science, language, maths, history and geography too!

To answer a Challenge question the student needs to write a computer program and ensure it works correctly. Once satisfied, they submit their code to the online marking system to determine if the program is correct. If the program fails testing feedback is provided and the student has the option of re-submitting. Multiple attempts to each question are allowed but after 5 attempts the amount of marks allocated to a finally successful submission diminishes.

We often get asked how much time the Challenge takes. A rough estimate is around 2-3 hours per week for the 5 weeks, but we also find that this can vary a lot, depending on student experience, comprehension levels, and how the Challenge is undertaken (in the classroom, at home, in groups, etc). 

How do I purchase subscriptions for my students?

You can purchase subscriptions for as many or as few students as you like! Our system will automatically discount your invoice in accordance with our bulk discounts. If your school has a site licence, you won't need to buy subscriptions for those students - you'll see a warning message if you try to do this. 

  1. From your teacher dashboard, click the 'Buy Subscriptions' button. 
  2. Add students to your Draft Invoice
  3. When you've added all the students that you wish to buy subscriptions for, click the red 'Confirm Invoice' button. 

For more details instructions on purchasing subscriptions,  please see our article: How do I purchase subscriptions?

Can I assign the Challenge to my students?

Yes, you can assign a course to your students! To help your students find the right course, you can assign it to them via the Teacher Dashboard. For detailed instructions on assigning the Challenge to your students please see our article: How do I assign a course?

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