Local teen designs high school coding challenge

Local teen designs high school coding challenge

GLOCESTER – Ponaganset High School senior Nick Bottone has established a new coding competition where 10 teams from high schools across Rhode Island compete in an online problem-solving challenge.

Bottone, 17, of Smithfield, created the coding competition after enjoying online coding challenges at home. While online challenges are mostly done individually, he thought the idea of bringing a collaborative game to the school would be fun.

On Monday, Nov. 25, Bottone’s idea came to life and 10 teams of four, including teams from Ponaganset High School, Bishop Hendricken, La Salle, Moses Brown, Smithfield, and Toll Gate competed in the first-ever high school Code Clash at PHS.

“We’re having a pretty successful first year. The plan was for 10 teams, and we filled every spot,” Bottone said.

Reception for the competition has been positive, he said, and having teams come to PHS to participate in Code Clash brought energy to the school. Winners take home a T-shirt and trophy, and every participant receives a medal. The purchase of the trophies was the only cost associated with the competition.

He said he’s always had an affinity for computers, with each new technique learned opening the door for him to learn a more difficult skill.

“I kept trying to find the next step up. I am constantly learning and improving,” he said.

As a child, he was building webpages, learning graphic interface programs, and coding languages. By 11, he was reading and writing JAVA. Bottone said JAVA is his favorite language.

With all his techniques and research, Bottone said it was difficult to really test his knowledge or to compete with other coders. His idea was to create a collaborative coding competition that brings teams together from across the state for some fun.

“There was really no incentive to hone your skills or keep learning. I thought I could create this exciting challenge, but also make it fun,” he said.

From conception to completion, Bottone developed and organized Code Clash mostly by himself. He said his teachers mentored him and his friends tested his challenges.

“I’m always trying to find anything new to do,” he said.

Because he wrote the challenges and programs, Bottone did not participate in the games. Instead, he sat in the “old library room” at PHS and watched the players.

Challenges began on an easy level but the competition quickly grew more difficult. Bottone said he specifically designed the competition so each team could complete one, but not all, of the challenges.

Competitors are asked to solve a set of problems using a computer program of their design. Scores are updated throughout the first half of the competition, but hidden for the second half. In the end, a tie-breaker relies on which team scores the most points fastest, so strategy is essential.

Bottone said he plans to study computer science in college, but has not decided where he will attend.