Happy Lunar 牛 (‘niu’ pronounced as ‘new’, it means cow/ox) Year! For all of our Chinese friends, this year is the Year of the Ox, and 12th February 2021 marks the start of the Chinese New Year on the traditional lunar calendar – which lasts for 15 days. In line with this event, did you know that there are ox and cow -related programming languages?

This year’s festivities are a little different as we spend our long weekend at home staying safe. We share some fun (programming) facts related to the Year of the Ox to keep you occupied, and perhaps to inspire you to code your next program! Here they are:

1. Cow Programming Language

Considered one of the Top 5 Hardest Programming Languages in the world, it has 12 instructions that vary on the capitalisations of “moo”, such as “Moo” and “mOo” and with the exceptions of MMM, OOO, oom and OOM. Created in 2003 by Sean Heber, it is an esoteric programming language (often shortened to “esolang”) – this means that it is a programming language built as a joke and to explore the theory of computation, not for solving computational, practical problems.

You’ll see what we mean with this example, which translates to “Hello” in Cow programming language:

3 Fun (Programming) Facts for the Year of the Ox - Cow Programming Language
We’re not joking!

2. Ox Programming Language

3 Fun (Programming) Facts for the Year of the Ox - Ox Programming Language

This object-oriented matrix programming language is used academically in econometrics and statistics (it is also available for non-academic use!). Developed by Jurgen Doornik, it has a comprehensive mathematical and statistical function library and syntax similar to C++, which has resulted in faster and more efficient programs that are easier to maintain.

Get a glimpse of the OxMetrics interface

Ox programming language uses OxMetrics to produce graphics and reports, which assists in econometrics and statistical modelling, as well as financial analysis. It is a powerful tool that enables users to write their own programs, plot graphs, and so much more – and is great for people with basic programming language too!

3. Cows and Bulls

3 Fun (Programming) Facts for the Year of the Ox - Bulls and Cows

Even if you’ve never heard of this, the concept behind this game will definitely be familiar! Remember the game Mastermind? You create a secret 4-digit code, and the other player tries to guess it within a number of tries. You get a bull point if you get the correct digit and correct position, and a cow point if you get the correct digit, but in the wrong position. This feedback helps in logically guessing the secret code.

The game Mastermind

One of the first computer implementations for this game was created in 1970 – a program simply called “moo” – written by J.M. Grochow at MIT for the Multics operating system. Today, you can play this Cows and Bulls (also known as Bulls and Cows) game against computers too!


For all coders out there, you can even try programming this yourself too. Find the tasks here, and solve it in your preferred programming language. This may not be programming-related, but it sure is code-breaking!

Bonus: The Great Race of the Zodiac Animals

In the festivities of Chinese New Year, what would this post be without a fun fact of the zodiac year? Did you know that the Ox is second among the 12 Chinese zodiac animals – after the rat? Legend has it that there was a Great Race to cross the river to derive at this sequence. The Rat jumped on the Ox as it made its way across the river, then the Rat proceeded to jump across the finish line to win, while the Ox ranked second place.

The remaining animals placed in the following order: Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, then Pig.

Coding Lab wishes you a Happy Lunar Niu/New Year!

The Coding Lab team wishes everyone a prosperous Lunar New Year! 🙂

You now know some cool fun facts and learnt a little more about programming too. We hope that we’ve also inspired your next coding program, and don’t forget to share these facts with your friends!


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The Straits Times Feature: Addressing the Gender Gap in the STEM Sector

We’re proud to be featured in The Straits Times today! In Singapore’s English flagship newspaper, we shared our experience and thoughts on bridging the gender gap in the area of STEM.

“Given the right environment, girls can realise their potential,” our Director, Candice Wang, says. She is also a proud mother in the STEM field whose daughter attends weekly classes at Coding Lab.

The Straits Times feature - Gender gap in Stem sector: Support from parents is crucial to help girls excel
A snippet of our feature on The Straits Times (9 February 2021, Monday, LIFE)

Read the full article here.

Did you know that at Coding Lab, we ensure a gender-neutral environment to encourage students of all genders and ages to code? Some examples of how we do so include:

  • Showcasing a good mix of projects by girls and boys
  • Building programs, games and animations around students’ favourite cartoons and topics (eg. Disney shows and princesses)
  • Gender-neutral questions and exercises

Read our previous features: We’re on The Straits Times!

Our superstar coder and University of Texas (Austin) scholarship recipient, Sarah Go, is also featured! She talks about her experience as a female in STEM and how her parents and environment has helped her to excel. Read her blog features here and here.


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As Chinese New Year approaches, the tech-activities don’t stop! Here are February’s fun techtivities for families and serious coders to do. From taking part in a coding challenge, enjoying artworks in an electric car and following a time-travelling robot (Psst, use your SingapoRediscovers vouchers), there’s much to do on our little red dot!

Shopee Code League

Whether you’re a student (pre-tertiary, undergraduates and postgraduates; ages 18 and below will need to complete a Parental Consent Form) or a working professional, you’re welcome to join in the fun with a group of 2 to 4. Gather your coder friends, solve real-world issues and take on challenges specially designed by the Shopee tech teams. Get ready, registration closes on 26 February 2021!

Details:
Registration closes on 26 February 2021
Competition runs from 6 – 20 March 2021
To find out more, click here.


Moo Moo PARK

Usher in the Year of the Ox by enjoying artworks by foot or in an electric car at Asia’s first drive-through exhibition. Organised in the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre’s carpark, the immersive exhibition features 3D installation art, selfie filters and augmented reality murals that focus on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Details:
Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, Level 6 Carpark
Open daily (no walk-in on Saturdays / no drive-thrus on Sundays)
Price: From $5
Tickets available from SISTIC
To find out more, click here.


Time Capsule

Meet the newest attraction to join the Singapore Flyer. Touted as a multi-sensory attraction that takes you through Singapore’s 700-year history, the immersive and interactive journey spans two levels as you follow a ‘time-travelling’ robot called R65. Best of all, you can use your SingapoRediscovers vouchers here!

Details:
Thursdays to Sundays, 2pm to 9:15pm
Singapore Flyer
Price: From $10
*Can use SingapoRediscovers Vouchers
To find out more, click here.


Coding Classes

Parents, we heard you! Our Junior Coders Programme is back in session. Calling all N2s to K2s! Our specially curated preschool coding programme will get your little ones acquainted with technology through fun and hands-on activities.

For Ages 7 to 18, our mid-semester intake for February is now open too!

Details:
To find out more about our Junior Coders Programme, click here.

Mid-Semester Intake Details:
Starting Saturday, 6 February 2021
Parkway Parade, Bukit Timah (KAP Mall) and Online
To find out more, click here.

The Coding Lab team wishes everyone a prosperous Lunar New Year! 🙂

If you haven’t seen our previous techtivity recommendations, check out our January #TechtivitiesOfTheMonth, which includes more cool tech-related attractions that you can visit!


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We nurture future leaders in technology, so we recognise that it’s important to be tech-literate in today’s world. Here are some tech gift ideas to keep our teens curious and hungry for more knowledge:

Raspberry Pi

Nope, we’re not talking about raspberries or the magical 3.14 number. 

The Raspberry Pi is an affordable, pocket-sized computer that could be the key to unlocking the door of physical computing. You can connect it to a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Learn with Scratch, use Python, make websites and more!

It makes picking up computing more accessible and seamless, so people are able to harness the power of computing to solve problems and express themselves creatively.

Find out more and get free learning materials here.

From $35 from Argon and Cytron

Laptop or Tablets

Remember the moment you first got your own desktop or laptop? 

Our ACS student exploring the course

Perhaps now is the time for your teen to experience that moment too. Many of us have fond memories of tinkering with our own blogs, using Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, playing Maple Story, navigating Friendster and the old Facebook. Whether it’s a laptop or tablet that you purchase, it will be a great time for your teen to take on the responsibility of a device, hone his or her typing skills, get familiar with technology and have knowledge and information at his or her fingertips! 

Psst, Apple fans! Tertiary students (University, Polytechnic, JC, ITE) can get Apple Education prices.

Kiwico Crates

At a complete loss as to what fun and enriching presents you should get and you only know the child’s age? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. 

Need a shortcut to letting your child DIY things – without having to source for the materials? The STEM projects and kid-friendly content by KiwiCo is delivered in a crate. With so many crate choices, they have filtered it out by ages (from 0 to 104 years old) and various interests for you to narrow down the perfect one. Whether you’re interested in Science and Tinkering or Art and Design, monthly, 3-month, 6-month and annual subscriptions, they have it all! 

Find out more here.

From $20.16/month from KiwiCo

Read: Tech Gift Ideas for Christmas

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Coding is the new literacy. We’ve all seen the might of technology and coding seems to be the next ‘it’ thing. Here are toys that can help to pique your child’s interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM).

Read: STEAM is the new STEM

Zometool

Recall your Chemistry classes where you had to visualise atoms and particles? Chances are, your kid will have to go through that someday too – and here’s how you can make their understanding of it easier. 

Inspired by real-world architecture and used by mathematicians, research scientists, physicists, and at NASA, the idea for Zometool began in 1969. Boxes come with parts of colourful pieces of different sizes – similar to the ball-and-stick models, but with more varied shapes and lengths – that can connect to one another. Kids are then given the freedom to discover and explore the endless possibilities that they can build with the open-ended creation system that imparts complex STEAM concepts and also improves spatial awareness. 

Find out more and get FREE activities here.

From $29.90 at Playhao

Arduino Starter Kit

This kit is for the more serious tech tinkerers to dip their toes in STEAM and to self-learn even more with Arduino. 

We often have curious parents asking if we teach Arduino here. Our answer? If they can do basic programming (Scratch included!), then they can transfer that knowledge to Arduino. These kits have hardware (i.e. programmable boards, sensors, mechanical parts) and open-source software, which introduces concepts such as electricity and Arduino code. Activities and tools include sensors, buttons, and more! 

Find out more here.

Access free tutorials here.

$128 for the Starter Kit from Duck Learning

Micro:Bit

Take coding one step further with one of the world’s smallest programmable computers. 

Image of children trying out the maze game with Micro:bit controls

Pop two AAA batteries in, and you’re ready to create your projects. The pocket-sized computer has an LED light display, buttons, sensors and a compass, which you can work with Scratch, Python, Microsoft MakeCode, and more. Created by news agency BBC, it was distributed to children in the United Kingdom – Singapore is following suit with select schools – to heighten curiosity and interest in coding. Join in the fun! Make a random number generator, light-up compass and more – like what we do in our Young and Advanced Computer Scientists courses!

Find out more and get FREE activities here.

$30 at Playhao

Read: Tech Gift Ideas for Christmas

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We believe that everyone should learn to code – and that it should be fun for everyone (parents included). Here are some gadgets that can help to jazz up learning for our young ones:

Makey Makey

Turn bananas and plants into your own game controllers with science and coding – all in one handy invention! 

The easy-to-use invention kits from Makey Makey allows you to hook up your world to your computer. Tinker with alligator clips and learn about conductive objects and materials in the world. Get hands-on and make learning fun, just like how we incorporate Makey Makey in our Young Computer Scientists classes too. Build your own sensors, musical instruments and light-up circuits with Scratch and Arduino – the projects you can do are endless!

Find out more and get FREE activities here.

$67.35 from Amazon

Hot Wheels ID

This is what we all envision when we say “toy”, but they’ve brought it up a notch to make it educational.

We’ve all known the brand Hot Wheels, and now they’ve combined their signature race cars with coding. All cars are Uniquely Identifiable Vehicles, so the more play that happens on the Smart Track, the higher the levels climb on the free app. Kids can also learn Swift, Apple’s programming language, through interactive storylines, puzzles and Augmented Reality. The easy-to-use invention kits from Makey Makey allows you to hook up your world to your computer. Tinker with alligator clips and learn about conductive objects and materials in the world. Get hands-on and make learning fun, just like how we incorporate Makey Makey in our Young Computer Scientists classes too. Build your own sensors, musical instruments and light-up circuits with Scratch and Arduino – the projects you can do are endless!

Find out more here.

$159.99 from Amazon

mBot

Looking for a fun and affordable robot for a beginner programmer? You’ve got the mBot. 

This four-wheeled STEAM education robot lets children learn about machinery and electronics, fundamentals of programming, and develop their design and logical thinking skills. The mBot comes with an instruction manual, which makes it easy for children to set up and pair with the app (Scratch and Arduino). The cute robot also motivates kids to experience the joys of making, which is why we have it as part of our Young Computer Scientists curriculum.

Find out more here.

From $109.90, available in blue and pink, from Toytag and Playhao.

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Tiny Hands, Mega Minds. At Coding Lab, we believe that one’s age and size do not matter when it comes to coding and tinkering. At preschool ages, it’s important to select educational toys for our budding tots. Here are some great ideas for a headstart in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM)!

Read: STEAM is the new STEM

Magna-Tiles

Hands-on, screens off! Think building blocks – tiles – but magnetic. You have Magna-Tiles. 

These 3-dimensional magnetic building sets stand by encouraging and integrating math, science, creativity and imagination. The vibrant tiles have magnetic sides that come in various shapes and sizes for your child to connect them together with a ‘click’ sound. A butterfly, a castle, your child can build anything! The simple idea behind Magna-Tiles is that if you can click it, you can create it. 

Find out more and get FREE activities here.

$29.90 to $249.90 at Playhao, Pupsik Studio, The Children’s Showcase and Le Petit Society

The Learning at Home Set

Let your kids learn how computers work… without using a computer.

Developed in and inspired by Montessori classrooms, these wooden toys designed at MIT impart computational thinking. The hands-on materials that ethically manufactured in USA include wooden binary towers, circular logic gates that represent Boolean logic, and binary trees – all computer science concepts. You’re never too young (or too old) to start learning the basics! With this, you can truly learn beautifully with your tiny techie. 

Find out more and get free activities here.

$235 (Launch Special) at Learning Beautiful Singapore

Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit

It’s not just another app. Change the way that your children interact with the iPad! 

Simply set up your device, then let your toddler play with the physical, tangible game pieces in front of it. Before you know it, those pieces are showing up on the iPad. Four games are included for your toddlers to improve their reading, storytelling and fine motor skill development. 

For older ones (up to 12 years old), you can choose from the many other games, such as Math, Coding, Business, Spelling and Drawing. For $39, you can even get themed sets, such as Disney princesses, The Incredibles 2, Mickey Mouse and Friends, as well as Frozen 2! 

Find out more here.

$129 at Playhao and Real Cool Tech

Read: Tech Gift Ideas for Christmas

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2020 has taught all of us the usefulness of technology and its ability to bridge gaps. That’s why the Coding Lab team has compiled a Christmas Gift Guide (and arranged it by age groups) to save you from the endless browsing or last-minute shopping frenzy for the perfect Christmas present for your loved ones!

Be it to kickstart or further their interest in technology, these gadgets and games are sure to bring hands-on joy to children aged 4 to 18 this season! 

Click to navigate:


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Our previous Did You Know? from our Young Computer Scientists (YCS) series let many of you wow your friends with your knowledge. We heard you! We have decided to bring back more fun facts – this time from our Advanced Computer Scientists series.

Our ACS student having fun in class!
Our ACS student having fun in class!

In the P21S Advanced Computer Scientists (ACS) course, our 10-to-12-year-olds can collect 12 different badges. Each badge allows them to delve into diverse fields of application for coding, from UI/UX design experience to Game Development and Math, just to name a few.

Turtle Race by Emily, 12, Advanced Computer Scientists
Turtle Race by Emily, 12 years old
Space Invaders by Luciano, 12, Advanced Computer Scientists
Space Invaders by Luciano, 12 years old

The ACS programme spans three main types of learning – Hardware-Based, Syntax-Based and App Development. Upon completion, our students would have had hands-on experience with bots and be well-versed in writing real-world apps and programs that they can use to help others.

Photo of ACS Class
Our curious Advanced Computer Scientists trying out in-class activities

Without further ado, check out these 3 ‘Did You Know’ facts that we share with our ACS students in our award-winning curriculum – and make sure to pass on the knowledge to others! 😉

1. Role Playing Games

What defines a Role Playing Game (RPG)? It is a game where a player takes on the role of a fictional character in a fictional world – fantasy being the common thread. Most RPGs have character growth and advancement, coupled with an entrancing plot that immerses players into the lore and the world of the game [1]. A good RPG is balanced, will keep gamers hooked for hours, and leave a lasting impression.

For the more mature gamers out there (like your parents, teachers, and maybe even yourself), big names like Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, World of Warcraft, and more old school games come to mind when they think of RPGs. Now, we have more recent or remastered titles such as the new Doom, Divinity Original Sin 2, Monster Hunter: World and The Witcher 3.

Snapshot of Online HBL class
Snapshot of Online Home-Based Learning class for ACS

In Python Choose Your Own Adventure, our ACS students learn about RPGs. They get to code their character creation, equipment upgrades and boss fights. Classes also touch on game design topics, like balancing their games. This refers to tweaking a game to be interesting, deep, and fair [2]. Game balance affects battles and a person’s progression in a game.

Imagine being stuck on the tutorial and unable to level up? What about reaching the maximum level in 2 hours and there is nothing else for you to do? RPGs with the level and experience system usually make starting levels easier to level up and almost impossible at higher levels. Without balance, people will quickly get bored of the game.

2. Global Positioning System

When modelling an app after Healthy 365, our ACS students learn about UI/UX design and tap on the many different sensors found in our phones. Do you know how our phones are able to find our location or track our number of steps?

We’ve all heard of GPS. The Global Positioning System (GPS) used to be a satellite-based radio navigation system owned by the United States government [3]. When the project was initiated, the 24-satellite system became fully functional in 1993 and was used to perform trilateration to pinpoint your exact location on Earth. Trilateration measures distance. Your position would be determined by the intersection of multiple intersections of GPS signals [4].

When it comes to tracking our steps, Abraham Louis Perrelet is the brilliant mind behind the pedometer [5]. Through the years, multiple improvements have been made to the pedometer. From the ancient versions using mechanical switches to the current day’s implementation with Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) sensors and sophisticated software.

3. Quiz Gameshow

Come on down, it’s time for the quiz gameshow! Our ACS students get to code their own quizzes and learn more about programming, such as extensibility and the incremental build model. We also include fun facts, like this one… Legend has it that “quiz” is actually a very recent word created in the late 1700s. The story behind the word is a bizarre one and here is how it goes.

A wager was made in 1791 by Richard Daly in Dublin. He wagered that within 48 hours he could make a nonsense word be spoken throughout Dublin, one with no meaning and not derived from any language. He sent his employees to go around Dublin chalking the word “Quiz” everywhere and soon this word became the talk of the town which meant that Daly won the bet and this caused the word to become commonly used.

Of course, this story is not 100% factual and there are many sources that dispute the truth of this story [6]. So for now, let’s just say this is a folktale – and an interesting one too.

Our ACS student exploring the course
Our ACS student exploring the course

Now that you’re armed with all of this cool information, spread the joy of learning by sharing this with your friends and family! 

Come onboard our Advanced Computer Scientists’ programme – where we help to build your child’s aspiration of becoming the next future leader in technology!


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A record number of our students achieved medals in this year’s prestigious 23rd National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI) and we celebrate their achievements! The NOI is modelled after the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI), one of the most highly-distinguished annual informatics competitions for high school students in the world.

This year’s bumper crop of medallists includes 1 Silver and 7 Bronze winners who are between 13 and 17 years old! Our winning students have been learning C++ and growing with us after being spotted in their Python classes for their programming prowesses. It is truly a great sight to see them flourish and become phenomenal medallists!

NOI spots are reserved for every school’s top students to participate, so only few can represent their school, and only the best can attain medals in the Olympiad. We’re even more proud of the fact that many of our medallists came to us as complete beginners in programming (some started at the age of 10!), and were carefully nurtured in our classes right under the noses of our eagle-eyed tutors to achieve their results. Well done!

Presenting to you Coding Lab’s 23rd NOI medallists:

Vayun Mathur, 15Silver Medallist
Kushaan Mishra, 17Bronze Medallist (First Attempt)
James Pearman, 14Bronze Medallist (First Attempt)
Caleb Chia, 13Bronze Medallist (First Attempt)
David Walton, 15Bronze Medallist
Faiz Ali Shoaib, 17Bronze Medallist
Bobis Franc Ivan Lorenzo, 16Bronze Medallist
Elijah Yong, 14Bronze Medallist

Silver Medallist

Vayun Mathur, 15

Singapore American School
Coding Lab Vayun Silver Medallist
Vayun (left) won a Silver Medal at the NOI

The Olympiad is one of Computing’s biggest annual competitions in Singapore and the Silver Medal is awarded to the top 20% of participants. We’re so proud of our young innovator for being 1 of the 32 Silver Medallists this year! An Olympiad medal is highly recognised for admissions to top universities around the world. During the competition, contestants are given five hours to work out solutions to algorithmic tasks. This does not only require skills such as programming and testing, but also Mathematics and in-depth knowledge of designing algorithms, data structures and information theory.

Our bright student Vayun has been in the news before, with features on Google and international news network CGTN. He has performed well once again and we congratulate Vayun on getting the Silver Medal!

Read: Coding Lab CGTN feature


3 Bronze Medallists (First Attempt)

Kushaan Mishra, 17

Singapore American School

James Pearman, 14

Dulwich College Singapore

Caleb Chia, 13

Anglo-Chinese School Independent

Coding Lab’s Bronze Medallists made up 7 of the 49 Bronze Medallists in this year’s NOI. As one of the most prestigious computer science competitions, it’s not an easy feat to attain medals and our 3 students did Coding Lab and their schools proud when they emerged as bronze medallists on their first attempts! Our youngest medallist, Caleb Chia (just 13 years old!), has been with us since he was in primary school and we’re proud of his growth! All participants had to undergo a Preliminary Round to qualify for the NOI. Despite being new to the competition, our students ranked well and went on to clinch medals at the NOI.

Coding Lab NOI Bronze First Attempt
(from left) Kushaan, James, Coach Guangxuan, Jun Ray and Caleb

We are proud of our students’ remarkable achievements and commend their hard work to overcome the odds, especially during this pandemic. A round of applause for Kushaan, James and Caleb!


4 Bronze Medallists

National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI) 2019 Medallists
Elijah (left) and David at NOI 2019

David Walton, 15

United World College SEA Dover Campus

Faiz Ali Shoaib, 17

United World College SEA Dover Campus

Elijah Yong, 14

Anglo-Chinese School Independent

Bobis Franc Ivan Lorenzo, 16

Gan Eng Seng School

These 4 students were able to pit their computing skills against talented coders from more than 30 other schools and gain invaluable experiences in the Olympiad. Their consistent effort and hard work paid off as they took on programming tasks and made their mark at the reputable NOI.

This year’s medallists include Elijah Yong, who was awarded Youngest Medallist in last year’s NOI. The 14-year-old has been with us since he was a Primary Five student, when we spotted his potential and invited him to join our NOI programme. The Coding Lab team is proud to have seen him grow over the years into a confident teenager with medals under his belt and we commend him for his consistent hard work!

Read: Elijah Yong, Youngest Medallist at NOI 2019

Image of Elijah receiving award for youngest medalist, NOI 2019
Elijah receiving award for Youngest Medallist, NOI 2019

The Coding Lab team is proud of our students for clinching the Bronze Medals, and we celebrate their achievements. Great job David, Faiz, Bobis and Elijah!

Congratulations to our outstanding students! We’re proud of our 8 students for coding their way to the top with their tenacity and hours of training, even overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic. They had been training once a week since the beginning of the year to prepare for the NOI and it was heartening to see their hard work pay off! We also thank Coach Guangxuan for his dedication, training and guidance of our students.

Whilst we celebrate our students’ success in this arena, we recognise that competitive programming is merely a subset of the full scope of programming. Many of our students have achieved success in wider aspects; whether it’s creating a Stock Rating Algorithm, a Real-Time Carpark Tracker, a prize-winning app or attaining an overseas scholarship to read Computer Science at University, we’re here to support our students every step of the way.

Interested to find out more? Check out the Python Programming and Elective courses we offer for Secondary school and Junior College students.


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