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 (offered only in the July edition).

When does the Challenge start?

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 get paid access to the competitions for my students?

For our Australian and Aotearoa NZ schools, the NCSS Challenge is included in the sponsored access.

Schools that are not eligible for sponsored access can have a verified teacher request a quote from their teacher dashboard. 

For more details on paid access, please refer to our pricing information page.

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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