I survived 10 days of NCSS and all I got were these 7 free t-shirts.
Like any good bedtime story there is an arc toNCSS. It’s starts slowly with introductory lectures, team building activities and lots of food. It ends with a race full-pelt to the climactic finish line before everyone falls asleep on the way home.
NCSS is the National Computer Science (Summer) School. It’s a 10 day camp early in the new year run by Sydney Uni School of IT for students from years 10 and 11 (with a handful older who are returning for their second go). It’s been running for 20 years now and has grown over time; it now caters for over 100 students in two streams. The streams on offer are Web and Embedded. The Web stream centres mostly on Python with some database and HTML and CSS. The embedded stream deals with programmable electronics using a cut down version of C++ and Arduino.
Each stream works towards a completing major project (mostly student defined) by the end of the 10 days. It’s a whirlwind! And the best thing is they let teachers attend as students. That’s right, I didn’t attend as a tutor, teacher or mentor, I got to attend as a student; living on campus at women’s college, being fed throughout the day and entertained each night for a measly $400.
This year I attended in the embedded stream. Our group wired and rewired (and rewired and rewired – circuitry is frustrating) various beginner projects to develop the skills we would need to complete our major project. The kinds of components we got to play with included LEDs, buzzers, 8 LED digit displays, accelerometers, potentiometers, capacitors, resistors, joysticks and Bluetooth chips. The processes we got to learn about included turning stuff on and off, turning it on and off really fast in different increments (PWM) calibrating signals and signal noise reduction. There’s still so much I want to know but it was an amazing introduction.
On top of all that we get schwag from the industry sponsors involved (T-shirts everywhere) and had well planned evening activities to help build our teams – they were so much fun. Over the 10 days we had a newspaper tower building competition, Trivia night (completely rigged against the teachers), Scavenger Hunt through the uni, Programming comp, Cryptography challenge, Formal dinner, Simulation (act out computer processes in teams) and All-nighter. We had one night off and I used it and the simulation night to hang out with my family (10 days is a long time).
Why I go and will go again
Despite being 10 days out of my very valuable January Holidays it’s worth every second because unlike training designed for adults, which is polite, finite and often sedentary, this training is designed for the best kids at high school and is anything but polite and never sedate. It’s deep-end learning with real problems to solve and hard, difficult to attain deadlines. It teaches me about the detail of programming I’ve forgotten since uni in my dark distant past. I also like the meta-learning of watching how the lecturers and tutors interact with the students both stretching those who need it and supporting the others. These lecturers and tutors are brilliant, dedicated, patient, energetic individuals who are incredibly generous with their time and expertise. It’s a brilliant program that won’t break the bank and so long as family logistics allow I’ll keep going back ‘til they tell me to stop. I leave completely afflated and ready to stretch myself and my students through the coming year.
You can read my day by day blog of the whole experience here:
NCSS 2015 – Day 1
NCSS 2015 – Day 2
NCSS 2015 – Day 3
NCSS 2015 – Day 4
NCSS 2015 – Day 5
NCSS 2015 – Day 6
NCSS 2015 – Day 7
NCSS 2015 – Day 8
NCSS 2015 – Day 9
NCSS 2015 – Day 10
Amanda Hogan. ICTENSW Board Member
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