And Ireland’s Programming Olympics champions are…

24 Feb 2016

Pictured at the All Ireland Programming Olympics are (l-r) Gary Conway, AIPO manager, John Ryan, Stephen Ashmore of Fidelity Investments, Teofil Camarasu, Eoin Davey and DCU’s Professor Rory O’Connor – via Nick Bradshaw

The best and the brightest were out in force last weekend as a trio of programmers claimed top prize in Ireland’s Olympic-themed programming event.

The All Ireland Programming Olympiad (AIPO) was in DCU over the weekend, putting programmers through a bunch of challenges to see who would come out on top.

More than 40 school students competed in three challenges: plotting the most productive travel itinerary for a salesman by creating an algorithm, creating programmes to steer an autonomous vehicle in mapping a city, and fixing pieces of code more akin to that found in final year university exams.

In the end, the trio of John Ryan (St Joseph’s College, Borrisoleigh), Teofil Camarasu (Dundalk Grammar School) and Eoin Davey (Summerhill College Sligo) carried off the top senior prize, each receiving full marks for the event.

In the junior category, Caolan Fleming (St Mary’s CBS, Laois) took first prize, ahead of Joseph Greevy (St Michael’s College, Dublin) and Shane Buckley (St Mary’s College, Dublin).

“These are the sort of skills the ICT sector are in need of – quick thinking, problem-solving software engineers that can work under pressure,” said DCU’s Gary Conway, who manages the AIPO. “To see these skills in such young students is really amazing and encouraging for Ireland’s future.”

The top-eight finishers win an intense three-day training camp in DCU to compete for a place on Team Ireland to represent the country in the International Olympiad in Informatics in Russia later this year.

The AIPO is set up to find “naturally gifted young programmers”, which is handy amid a drought in talent. That’s not to say we’ve no talented programmers, but the demand outstrips supply to such a degree that reports into the need for more programmers are almost monthly at this stage.

Some of the competitors are seriously talented, too. Ryan, aged just 15, is already a content manager at DoSpace, having received a string of accolades, including awards from the BT Young Scientist Competition for his Arrive Alive road safety app.

Fidelity Investments, which has a development programme for IT graduates, was once again a sponsor of the event. Its VP of software engineering, Tadhg O’Shea, said: “Many of the top technology jobs of the future will be in the areas of cloud, big data, cybersecurity and end-user experience.

“Against the backdrop of an increasingly technology-driven world, demand for skilled IT professionals will increase exponentially in these areas.

“The AIPO plays a vital role in showcasing and nurturing the amazing programming talent of our young people, who will be the technologists of the future.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic