NCSS Challenge

The National Computer Science School (NCSS) was held in Sydney from 3 January for 10 days. We stayed at the Women’s College at the University of Sydney. We moved between the residential college, the Business School and the School of IT within the university campus during the day.
There were two streams you could complete, embedded – create a fitness related game using BBC Micro:Bits and web (which I did) – create a website using, Python, html, CSS and SQL for an idea chosen by your group. Everyone was put into groups of about 16 people who were all in the same stream and each group had to produce a product by the end of the summer school. There were 8 groups (4 web and 4 embedded) and I was in group 1. In the web stream, some group members were given the task of creating the front end (the website), others worked on the back end (the python code and database powering the website) and everyone else worked on the group’s two 2-minute videos, one about the group and another showcasing the product (check them out at All projects were hosted at during the summer school and are now made public for all to see. The first couple of days were for practising the content taught in the lectures on Grok Learning and the remaining days were for working on the projects.
A typical day would be breakfast at 7am, roll call at 8:45am, then lectures in the business school or School of IT (SIT) at Sydney University, lab sessions in SIT and lunch at 1 pm. Then after lunch, lectures and labs, then dinner at 6pm, activities, and finally dismissed to bed at 10 pm.
We would normally have two lectures a day and the topics are listed here respectively: Introduction to Python, Files and Python Modules, Object-Oriented Programing, Exceptions, Regular Expressions, Formal Languages, Information Architecture and Design, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Databases and SQL.

We had mentors and tutors from the sponsors of the event including WiseTech Global, Freelancer, Atlassian, Data 61, Google, Commonwealth Bank, Digital Careers, Macquarie and the Australian Signals Directorate, and from Sydney University and Grok Learning.
It’s not all work and no play of course, we had one or two activities running each day, including: ‘Murder’ (actually 24/7 until the last person standing), Site visits to WiseTech Global, Atlassian and Google, a special presentation by Simon Pampena ( or, a newspaper tower group building activity, a trivia night, scavenger hunt, official dinner with the sponsors, cryptography challenge, masterclasses (Intro to Swift, Java, security, and a few others), a programming competition, simulation activities (Selection Sort, Merge Sort, acting out a theme), mock job interviews with industry mentors, the ‘all-nighter’ with pizzas (that was over 150 pizzas!), and free time!
On the last night, students who completed the embedded stream showcased their projects by holding a sport carnival for those in the web stream. Then the traditional ‘all-nighter’ began and we stayed up to complete our projects. In the morning, we watched the sun rise, and then danced the Macarena on top of the multi-level university carpark. Finally, we had the closing ceremony, where we took photos with our sponsors and received our certificates. Right at the end Richard White, CEO of WiseTech Global surprised us with a gift. We each received a BBC Micro:Bit kit worth around $60, so thank you to Richard for your generous gift!
I came out from the summer school as a different person and I feel inspired and reassured in pursuing a career in computer science. I learned many things that I’d never seen or thought about. I met so many of the most talented, inspiring people and made many new friends that I’ll never forget. The summer school gives you so many opportunities to learn computer science, meet like-minded peers and people who work in the industry. It gives you a good start into the industry and can help you land a job at many big companies. If you don’t know what subjects to do in high school to be ready for a course in computer science or IT, I seriously recommend Maths (Methods or Specialist), English Language and Physics. If you’re in Year 10 or 11 and you’ve ever considered going into IT or computer science, or you just want to get out and try new things, this is where you’ve got to go. If you choose to go, I recommend heading over to and completing the courses/competitions, they helped me! To apply, visit or to learn more, visit or ask me (Edward Lay)!
Thanks to the NCSS team and the sponsors for making this event possible!
Edward Lay
Year 12 Student