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It Started As A Dream - The Programming Contest Becomes The Great Computer Challenge

View the 25th Anniversary Video here.

“It started off as a dream,” explained Grace Little, ODU’s Assistant Director of Academic Enterprise Applications and Web Development, regarding the creation of the Great Computer Challenge. This year, WHRO, the Consortium for Interactive Instruction (C.I.I.) and Old Dominion University celebrate the 25th anniversary of the GCC—our joint project that provides the opportunity for students to demonstrate their skills in various computer applications and programming problems.

The Great Computer Challenge dates back to 1983, when Grace had the idea for Old Dominion University to host an Annual Programming Contest. Twenty teams of local high school students gathered to compete in basic computer programming using ODU’s mainframe computer. ODU’s tech-savvy faculty came up with the programming problems and judged the students’ solutions.

In 1986, as the Programming Contest began to build momentum, the University faced financial difficulties and decided to drop the competition. School divisions, as well as ODU faculty, complained publicly. Once word got out, WHRO and the C.I.I. contacted Grace about taking over the competition.

“Since WHRO is owned by our local school divisions and the C.I.I. advocates technology in our schools, of course we wanted to get involved,” said Annie Gilstrap, WHRO’s Education Technology Manager, who has organized WHRO and the C.I.I.’s GCC responsibilities for more than 15 years.

Meanwhile, ODU asked Grace to bring the contest back. “I entered compromise mode and the result was the GCC, which was the best thing that could have happened,” Grace explained.

Since our partnership began in 1986, the Great Computer Challenge has grown and advanced beyond all expectations. We’ve added more than 10 categories to the competition, as technology has advanced. In 1997, the GCC moved to ODU’s Webb Center, and grew so much that it had to be divided into two separate competitions: the Senior Division for grades 6-12 and the Junior Division for grades K-5.

In 2007, after 22 years of GCCs and a combined 25 years of programming competitions, Grace Little’s dream was a reality, and she retired from the Great Computer Challenge. Doug Streit took over the responsibilities on ODU’s end.

On March 6, 2010, 117 teams of middle and high school students lugging computer monitors, keyboards, printers and a variety of other technical equipment began pouring into ODU’s Webb Center for the GCC’s Senior Division Competition. Teams of up to five students from schools across the region competed in 11 different categories, including web design, video editing and desktop publishing.

The day concluded with a special awards ceremony to celebrate the Great Computer Challenge’s silver anniversary. It kicked off with WHRO presenting a commemorative video with a compilation of footage from past competitions, complete with teased 80’s hair and tacky 90’s clothing. Also, Charles Monroe, a teacher from Heritage High School in Newport News who has been bringing students to the competition since it began, displayed his collection of GCC t-shirts at the ceremony (he was missing only three of the 25 years!)

Representatives from WHRO, the C.I.I. and ODU presented Excellence in Technology Awards, GCC Spirit Awards and the Great Computer Challenge trophies and medallions to the winners from each category. Two unique awards were also given out this year. The Grace Little Technology Excellence Award was awarded to York River Academy for having the most teams per total students at the school; and the Annie Gilstrap Volunteer Service Award was given to Elaine Musick for her outstanding service as a GCC volunteer for many years. (Elaine’s one of WHRO’s most faithful volunteers, doing everything from the GCC to administrative tasks to covering the front desk. She’s absolutely indispensable!)

WHRO President and CEO Bert Schmidt invited the students to stand and be recognized, since their participation and continued interest in technology is the raison d’etre for the Great Computer Challenge’s 25-year success!

Elaine Musick

Elaine Musick received the Annie Gilstrap Volunteer Award -
Awarded on March 6, 2010 at the Senior Great Computer Challenge

York Academy

York River Academy received the Grace Little Technology Excellence Award -
Awarded on March 6, 2010 at the Senior Great Computer Challenge

Bea Rogers

Bea Rogers received the Annie Gilstrap Volunteer Award -
Awarded on May 1, 2010 at the Junior Great Computer Challenge

Cooper Elementary School
Cooper Elementary received the Grace Little Technology Excellence Award -
Awarded on May 1, 2010 at the Senior Great Computer Challenge


View the slideshow for a preview of the day's events, 25th Annual GCC, Senior Competition, March 6, 2010.
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View the slideshow for a preview of the day's events, 25th Annual GCC, Junior Competition, May 1, 2010.
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Congratulations to Fairfield Elementary School First Place Graphic Arts team, and congratulations to all of the other teams that competed in 2010.

Graphic Arts
Level 1

Fairfield Elementary School,
Virginia Beach
Teacher Sponsor
Gary Lennon
Mackenzie Goram
Jack Warham

Fairfield ES

Click here for a larger view of the
winning solutions

Click here to view the full problem the Level 1 Graphic Arts teams were challenged with.

Click here for Level 4 -
1st Place

Video Editing Winner

Bishop Sullivan Catholic H.S., Independent
Teacher Sponsor
Maureen Aylward
Eileen Hodermarsky
Thomas Mills
Chandler Edgington

Click here for Level 4 -
2nd Place

Video Editing Winner

Norfolk Academy, Independent
Teacher Sponsor
Ed Patterson
Jay Windsor
Harry Burdett

New in 2010
Video Editing Level 2

Click here for Level 2 -
Honorable Mention

Video Editing Winner

Petsworth E.S., Gloucester
Teacher Sponsor
Sharon Carino
Ben Green
Isaac Slater
Linda Stanley

What would you have created?

Level 4 Desktop Publishing Teams were given a problem to design marketing materials for a Haiti Fundraiser. Here’s a portion of the problem and one team’s solution. Click here for the full problem.

Your school computer club has decided to raise funds to help with the victims of the Haiti earthquake. Your club wants you to create materials to let the school and surrounding community know about their fundraiser. As members of the computer club, you will decide what event(s) will take place to raise funds and you will make all the decisions about dates and details regarding the event(s).

The solution below was submitted by Gloucester H.S., Gloucester

Desktop Publishing - Level 4- 1st Place
Gloucester H.S., Gloucester
Deb Riley
Amber Phelps
Ryan Wheless
Jordan Cheresnowsky
Jessica Edinton

Gloucester H.S.

click on the image for a larger view

Picts from the Senior Competition.

Click here to see them ALL.

Picts from the Junior Competition.

Click here to see them ALL.