The journey from Competitive Programming to Computation Thinking

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CodeChef started as a competitive programming platform and has become a popular name in the community. Competitive programming has emerged as a prominent interest amongst the college students over the last few years. The reason for us to promote competitive programming was because we wanted to enhance the logical reasoning and problem solving skills among the top university students.

This talk is going to be about the paradigm shift over the last few years that has redefined our vision towards embracing computational thinking. Computational thinking is a thought process to solve complex problems algorithmically. It is not just useful for the development of computer applications, but it can also be used in day-to-day life and to support problem solving across all disciplines, including the humanities, math, and science; how our focus got shifted from being a competitive programming platform for the top computer science engineering students to embracing computational thinking to include the middle and high school students, and what has led us here.

Today, India has the largest competitive programming community in the world. The maximum traffic to most prominent programming contest websites across the globe comes from India. It is not a coincidence that Amritapuri hosts the largest regional programming contest for ICPC. While India contributes the highest in terms of sheer numbers to the competitive programming world, the quality of the top programmers from India is still far behind the top programming talent of countries like Russia, China, Poland, Ukraine and others. Since we started primarily with the objective of improving the programming scenario in India, this wide gap between quantity and quality has made us realise the need of exposing students to computational thinking at a much younger age. We realised that the problem has to be solved at the grass roots level, and that it was not enough to target the top students from the top universities of the country.

About CodeChef - CodeChef, a non profit initiative of Directi, is a global programming community that fosters learning and friendly competition, built on top of the world’s largest competitive programming platform. It organises three featured contests every month and gives away prizes and goodies to the winners as encouragement. Apart from this, the platform is open to the entire programming community to host their own contests free of any charge. Major institutions and organisations across the globe use our platform to host their contests. On an average, 30+ external contests are hosted on our platform every month. We also partner with colleges and groups to create local CodeChef Chapters, meet-ups, orientation sessions and programming workshops.