Road to National BDPA HSCC Championship


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Gibran McDuffie is the coordinator of the High School Computer Competition (HSCC) efforts implemented by our BDPA Chicago chapter. His team won the 2006 National BDPA HSCC Championships held in Los Angeles, CA.

Gibran took the time to document the long road to that championship. This is 'must reading' for any student, instructor, volunteer or supporter of BDPA's high school computer competition.

Kudos to Gibran for taking time to document the process and road taken by BDPA Detroit chapter.


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Road to National BDPA HSCC Championship

  1. 1. Route 66The Road to the 2006 High School Computer Competition ChampionshipBy Gibran McDuffieRoute 66 was one of the earliest additions to the federal highway system. It began in Chicago and ended inLos Angeles. Along the way, travelers would pass through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico,and Arizona before ending their journey in California. The road our students took to L.A. did not traverse asmany states, but it certainly was as adventurous and challenging as Route 66 was when it opened in 1926, 80years before we landed in Los Angeles to complete our journey to the 2006 High School ComputerCompetition Championship.In 2003, Albert McDonald and I traveled to Philadelphia with a group of seniors. These young men had beentrained to develop web applications utilizing Java Server Pages (JSP). They were an excellent group of studentsand had been in the program 3 years or more. They were able to translate their dedication to an impressivethird place showing. The following year, Albert asked me to take a leadership role in developing our trainingprogram. Albert recruited some great students, Lee Reed, Letisha Logan, and Charise McSwine among them.However, it was the first year in the program for all of them. The students from the prior year were in college,one a West Point cadet. To make matters worse, our lead trainer moved to another city earlier in the year.The long and short of it was, we had to rebuild our entire program from the ground up.Following our success in Philadelphia, I wanted to continue teaching the students JSP; however, the book thestudents had been using for the past couple of years was out of print. I soon realized the job I’d undertakenwas much bigger than I’d imagined. I hadn’t been a programmer for 7 years, our chief technical guy wasgone, and obviously the technology had changed immensely since I’d put anything into production. I knewthe first order of business was to find a text book. We needed 20 JSP books to start training. The clock wasticking and I ended up ordering the only book I could find a large enough supply to start the program. Whenthe books finally arrived, I reviewed it to plan the training, but what I saw on the pages of the book was veryforeign to me!While the technology the book is based on remains JSP, the focus of the book is the Java Standard Tag Library(JSTL). I had a very superficial understanding of JSTL. In my attempts to stay abreast of technology, I’d writtena little tag of my own.; however, JSTL is a rich library of tags accompanied by it’s own expression languagewhich I knew nothing about. So there I was, tasked with overhauling the program, learning a new language,teaching it to students at the same time, and recruiting others to help dig me out of the jam I was in.Fortunately, the students made lemonade out of the lemons we’d been served. The 2004 conference washeld in Dallas, Texas. Lee Reed, Charise McSwine, Iman McDuffie, Shannon Pelote, and Tashe Majors-Newsome allowed our chapter to earn a respectable 12th place out of 21 contesting teams. We had averted atotal disaster on our first stop on Route 66. The experience gave the students the confidence to believe theycould do well if they had a solid training program to support their efforts.That fall, I formally accepted the HSCCT Coordinator responsibilities. With the lessons learned that year,Albert and I went to work to take the team to the next level. I was able to get Brian Moore of Allstate andJames Jackson an independent consultant to agree to develop a database training program and deliver it. I
  2. 2. Page 2 Route 66also reached out to Adrian Cooley of AT&T to agree to share the load of delivering the Java training andbecome the program chief technical architect. Albert McDonald recruited former HSCCT student Jeremy Jonesto be Assistant HSCCT Coordinator.In the course of the 2004 training, we learned that the JSP book we were using was not conducive tointroducing students to JSTL. On the upside, we learned there are huge benefits to teaching the students JSTLrather than native Java or JSP. The JSTL expression language is non-typed – meaning, developers don’t haveto worry about data types such as: char, int, float, double, etc., when creating and using variables. JSTL takescare of all type conversions behind the scenes. It also eliminates the need to define any middle levelarchitecture features such as an object model or framework. JSTL developers are free to focus on thefunctionality required in the web pages rather than the nuances of a programming language.I knew we needed a better book if we wanted the students to fully grasp the technology. After searching theweb, book stores, and talking to colleagues, I found JSTL in Action by Shawn Bayern. While it’s not written tothe latest specification of the language, it is written specifically to introduce non-programmers to thetechnology. Armed with a good text book and a great team, we began to layout the fundamentals of theprogram.I wanted the volunteers involved with the program to bring the same enthusiasm, charisma, and discipline thatis found in all successful sports programs. Accordingly, I titled anyone involved with program delivery aCoach. I also wanted a performance based method for selecting students participating in the program. Icreated a quiz for each week of HTML and JSTL training. Coach Moore created quizzes for the databasetraining. We determined we would collect the scores the students earned every week, and select the highestscoring students to represent us. Every week of training, we report to the students and parents providing anassessment of where we are, the issues to be addressed, and the student’s standing in the program. We alsogive movie tickets to the student that scores the most points or makes the most progress.Coach Moore and I believed we also needed some way of assessing which students would do well in theprogram. We’d planned to use this assessment in the event we had more students trying out for the programthan we could accommodate (that glorious day hasn’t arrived yet). Once more a search of the web and bookstores ensued. After much trial and error, we were able to develop a programmer aptitude test that hasaccurately predicted which students would be successful in our program.The most controversial decision we made for the new training program were new requirements that allparticipating students have access to a computer upon which they have administrator rights and access to theinternet. Effectively, we were requiring students to have their own computer along with internet access.Historically, one of the program objectives was to expose disadvantaged students to technology. We were re-envisioning the program. In part, our rationale rested on the fact that the overwhelming majority of thestudents trying out for the program did in fact have a computer and internet access. This circumstanceallowed us to introduce some efficiencies that we would not otherwise be able to take advantage of. Forexample, being that our technology is all open source, the students are able to install all of the technology weuse on their home computers, and develop their skills at home instead of solely relying on access to ourtraining facility.
  3. 3. Page 3 Route 66The inconvenient truth is, students attending the competition without a complete knowledge of how toconfigure their systems, end up being stumped the first time they run into a wrinkle in their environment thatis different from what they’ve been trained on. Further, we also have the High School Computer Club whichintroduces kids to technology without the restraint of owning a computer.Last year we started our training in February, a full month earlier than we had in previous years. The 21students that participated in the program learned on day one, that we were serious about the program andserious about winning. The coaches and I made it clear that our goal was to find 5 students we could take toDetroit and win a victory. We were buoyed by the fact that the National Coordinators had modified theprogram to place more emphasis on the programming aspect of the competition. A chapter had won thecompetition 4 years in a row in large part because the written exam is a computer based test that at that time,covered the same questions every year. Students could score really high by memorizing the material theycould count on being on the test. There were several years where the team with the best programmers lostbadly to teams that had memorized the material on the written exam.With Coach Cooley leading our JSTL training, I knew we would be a strong programming team. I also knewthat Coach Moore had developed an excellent database training curriculum. We were very confident we haddeveloped a solid program for the students to flourish in. Students returning to the program from the prioryear could feel the difference too. The leaders emerged early in the training. The brilliant Lee Reed returnedto take the lead in scoring points and did not relinquish the lead all year. Deante Morgan, a senior from CVSwith training in C++ demonstrated that his high score on the programmer aptitude test was not a fluke.Charise McSwine brought her two years of experience and natural leadership abilities to push students to workharder and stay focused in class. Letisha Logan, a student that just missed making the team the prior year bya hair, was determined to make the team that year without question. Maurice Shelton was a student that hadparticipated in the program in 2003 and went AWOL in 2004, returned to the program with his greatebullience and enthusiasm.As these five students began to emerge as the leaders in the program, I received an invitation to attend theMidwest Regional Competition in Cincinnati. This event is a condensed, sort of watered down version of thenational competition. It allows students to get a feel for what to expect when they attend the big game. AlMcDonald and I agreed it would be beneficial for the team to attend, and Al was able to secure support fromthe board of directors for us to go. That May when we embarked on the next leg of our Route 66 journey, wewere about 90% through the training. Our plan was to spend the winter and spring training the students, andthe summer honing their skills and team building.The troop that landed in Cincinnati had strong technical abilities, but had not yet jelled as a team.Nonetheless, the students were able to demonstrate the promise within them and earned a strong victory atthe competition. Unfortunately, it may have translated to overconfidence. After winning the MidwestRegional, we didn’t have another session where all the students showed up for class. Often, there’d only beone student in class. It was a very difficult circumstance and a challenge we still do not fully have a handle on.It’s not that the students were spending their summer at the beach instead of class. Each of them wereinvolved with very positive things that simply made it difficult for them to be where I needed them to be. Onestudent worked two jobs, one was in and out of town making arrangements to attend college, anotherattended football camp, and on, and on.
  4. 4. Page 4 Route 66By the time we were ready to leave for Detroit, I was dubious about our prospects. We had not jelled as a teamand I knew we were not as technically strong as we should be or could be. Then we blew a tire on our journeydown Route 66. Deante Morgan was one of the strongest JSTL programmers on the team. Unfortunately, helearned just before we were scheduled to leave for Detroit he would have to start college in the middle of thecompetition. We’d have to meet our challengers without him. My heart sank. However, after we arrived at thecompetition, we learned that the current champions had decided not to attend at the last minute. I thought“maybe we have a shot after all”, but it was not to be. The Southern Minnesota, New Jersey, and Hartfordteams were simply awesome.I took the loss hard. I didn’t mind losing if we’d given our all, but the effort we’d put into the program overthe summer let me know we didn’t deserve to be in contention. I wasn’t only angry with the students, I wasangry with myself. Over the summer if only 1 or 2 students showed up, I’d end training early or cancel italtogether instead of spending the scheduled time with whoever was there. We’d driven to Detroit. The ridehome was a difficult one. I hadn’t said much to the students about our 5th place showing. The students feltthey deserved to be congratulated for their improvement over the prior year. I didn’t. They questioned meabout it and I went Mike Ditka on them (but not Bobby Knight). No football or basketball coach would acceptless than 100% effort from their team and I’m not going to either – especially when the results are less thansatisfactory.It took a few weeks but I was able to pull myself together and began to work on the 2006 program. I knew wewere a level 2 organization on the capability maturity model, meaning, we have a managed, repeatable processfor success. However, I’d learned from the students there were some key improvements to the program thatneeded to be made. Several students complained we had an over reliance on quizzes. They pointed out thatsimply because a student had studied the book, it didn’t necessarily translate into programming ability. Thecoaches also weighed in on the less than optimal training facility we were using. Following theirrecommendations, we introduced practical exams at the end of every major section of training. To complete apractical exam, the students are given a business problem to solve, and they must use their training to providea solution in two hours. Each solution is judged by a committee of coaches. We also garnered support fromthe Illinois Institute of Technology. They agreed to allow us to conduct our training in one of their bestcomputer laboratories.In the spring of 2005, a mom was looking for a computer related program for her precocious son, and foundBDPA on the internet. She contacted Al McDonald who invited her and her son to one of our training sessions.The young man she introduced us to is Andreaus Robinson, and he would prove to be the final piece of thepuzzle we needed to ensure a victory at the end of Route 66. When Andreaus showed up that day, he wasarmed with a couple of computer games he’d developed in Visual Basic. I had a Michael Jordan in Lee Reed,now I’d have my Scotty Pippen too. We were too far in the program for Andreaus to start that year, but westayed in contact with him to ensure he participated this year.We have a long term vision of the High School Computer Competition program where everything will beautomated. The students will take quizzes online, the quizzes will be automatically scored, the scores willautomatically show up in their points, and their standing in the program will automatically be reflected.Additionally, students will be able to register for the program online, and we’ll be able to manage scholarshipsthrough the system along with other capabilities. We’re not there yet, but we took a big step toward gettingthere this year. I dug into my shallow pockets and registered I also signed up for a web
  5. 5. Page 5 Route 66service that allows us to develop and host web applications. Having these facilities in place, Coach Cooleydeveloped a web application that allows us to enter the points the students earn during training. The studentssee their standing in the program by logging in, and they can also maintain their profile information. Wehope to build upon these capabilities over the next year.2005 was an election year for our chapter. We elected a new set of officers and Albert McDonald decided hewanted to serve the chapter in a new capacity. Our new President, Yvette Graham asked if I’d try to fill the bigshoes Albert was stepping out of. Although I had some trepidation, I realized it was the next logical step forme.This year we started training on January 7th. A full month earlier than the prior year, and 2 months earlierthan 2004. We began with 19 students, but that quickly dwindled to 14. I had a goal to enter the summerwith 10 kids battling it out for positions on the team. I thought that would force kids to stay involved with theprogram and weigh their priorities. However, by April it was clear there were just 6 students with the level ofcommitment required of a champion. Some students were familiar and expected, others were new andsurprising. Of course the great Lee Reed returned. Though a fierce competitor, he was encouraged that otherstudents were able to best the top scoring honors from him. Maurice Shelton led the team this year with thehighest number of points scored and also demonstrated a firm grasp of the programming concepts he’dlearned over the past two years. Andreaus Robinson showed that he is the real deal, accumulating the secondhighest number of points in his first year in the program. Letisha Logan, was our database administrator theprior year and brought 3 years of solid database experience with her. Joseph Huggins was an 8th grader withthe maturity and focus of a high school Senior. Carlton Means is Lee Reed’s cousin proving that good genesdoes matter.We’d decided we’d return to the Midwest Regional Competition. Since the minimal make up of a team is 3,and the Midwest Regional allows chapters to send more than one team, we decided to send two. Team A wascomprised of: Lee, Andreaus, and Carlton. Team B included: Maurice, Letisha, and Joe. Al Wilson is a longtime BDPA member that had been helping me keep the kids focused in the classroom. He and other memberslike Greg Davison bought the kids lunch and given them rides home from class. Al knew I’d need some helpwith so many teenagers, and agreed to drive his van to Cincinnati. Leticia’s mom, and Joseph Huggin’s dadalso met us there. We had a full cheering section for our kids. At the end of the competition, Team A wonfirst place, and Team B second place. I was feeling the magic again. We were barreling down Route 66 withthe top down and the wind in our hair. Maybe leaving the top down wasn’t such a good idea…It was summer again and all the high school upper classmen had other things to do. The University of Texaswas wooing Lee with a two week tour of their facility. Andreaus had an internship at DePaul University andalso spent a week in Washington D.C. where he took second place in the NAACP Act-So computer competition.Leticia had graduated and was working a summer job and making plans to attend college. The only studentwe could count on being in class was young Joseph Huggins but even he had summer vacation plans with hisfamily.I felt strongly that we needed the summer to jell as a team and to hone our programming skills. Additionally,the Southern Minnesota team had performed so well on the programming part of the competition last year, Iknew their main area of growth had to be the written part of the exam. I’d enlisted Rodney Sanders of ABNAmro to develop a program to teach the students computer science. With everyone showing up so irregularly,
  6. 6. Page 6 Route 66his job was made all the more difficult having to go over the same material several times to ensure everyonebenefited from the lessons he’d prepared.However, the big lesson we’d learned last year was that as long as we have one student in class, we needed topress on. We were more flexible this year and readily diverged from our lesson plans and focused on thetraining needs of the students that showed up. It’s not the optimal situation but it is probably a reality wehave to accept during the summer. Bright kids like ours are always going to have other opportunities toexplore, and families aren’t going to stop going on vacation just so we can win competitions. As a matter offact, I took my family on vacation this summer.Accepting our circumstances is one thing, rolling over dead is something else. At the end of July, the studentsand I agreed we needed to make up for lost time. The good news was that even though the students weren’tcoming to class, they were studying and writing code on their own . They just needed their coach to helpthem with the finer points and they needed more time together as a team. A week before the conference, wemet at the BDPA Technology Center every night after work for 4 hours of intense development. It waswonderful. The students weren’t goofing off , or joking around. They knew it was the 4th quarter and we wereout of time-outs. They were unselfish and demonstrably unstoppable!It was time to put the peddle to the metal. We had established good momentum heading into the competitionand decided to keep it going once we arrived in Los Angeles early Tuesday afternoon. After checking into thehotel, we did a little reconnaissance on the area, got some lunch, then tramped back into our room to writemore code. We’d spent the last week working on the problems from previous competitions. One that provedmost beneficial was the video rental system from 2004. In this problem, the students had to develop asystem that included functionality to allow customers to search a video library, select movies by genre, show ahistory of movies previously rented, sort videos by selected criteria, view movie details, order a movie, etc. Inthe competition, they only get 7 hours to solve a problem and that is all they spent on each problem preparingfor the competition. At this point, the students cut me out of the process. They didn’t want my help, didn’twant me looking over their shoulders, didn’t really want me in the room.The first day of the conference there is a student breakfast which is sort of a pep rally. The last couple ofyears it has been led by our inspirational immediate past national president Wayne Hicks. Wayne does anexcellent job getting the students fired up about the conference and the competition. The students get to seekids they’ve met at previous competitions and to meet new students from all over the country. TheWednesday of the conference is the calm before the storm. In addition to the ~100 students that attend theconference for the competition, there is another ~100 students that attend for the Youth TechnologyConference. There are student workshops every day that all of the students can attend. Since the competitiondoesn’t start until Thursday, our guys attended some workshops that morning, but after lunch, they headedback to our room to write more code.The opening ceremony of the conference was Wednesday evening. Various conference dignitaries spoke aboutwhat the attendees could expect over the course of the next several days, followed by an address by thekeynote speaker. Past speakers have included Mae Jemison, the first African American female astronaut, aChicago native and graduate of Morgan Park high school. Last year Omar Wassow, creator of the Black Planetweb portal, opened the conference. This year Farrah Gray, another Chicago native, set the pace for theconference. His story of self-reliance and entrepreneurship was a lesson to be learned by students and adults.
  7. 7. Page 7 Route 66The competition starts on Thursday of the conference. The students have to be at breakfast by 7:00 a.m. orfines follow. Kraft Foods has hosted the breakfast for the past few years. They usually have an executiveintroduce an officer of the company that imparts some words of wisdom and advice. After breakfast, the kidshead to the oral competition. During this part of the competition, each team is asked a question in 5 rounds.Each question is worth 10 points. The first round covers BDPA history, next its computer science, thencomputer hardware, followed by data representation, and finally HTML. The moderator kept serving thequestions up, and our kids kept knocking them out the park!After the oral competition, the students were served lunch. After lunch, the students headed for the writtencompetition. The students are taken to a holding area, and then one by one they are taken to the laboratoryto take the written exam which tests their knowledge of computer science. The kids are given 15 minutes toanswer 300 questions. Obviously no student answers all the questions. Some questions require students totranslate data from binary to octal, and octal to hexadecimal, which as you know can be time consuming.Since wrong answers aren’t counted against you, I recommend the students just guess on these type ofquestions and jet to the next one, but not all of them followed my advice. Regardless, our team scored thesecond highest average score in the competition behind Southern Minnesota. Overall, combining our Oral andWritten scores, we were running second behind last year’s champions.Thursday evening they allow each team to analyze the systems they will use during the Programmingcompetition. Almost immediately we ran into a problem with our environment. For some reason, two webservers were running and competing for the same resources. We couldn’t get the system to see any of thecomponents we deployed. Fortunately we were able to assess the situation, and with help from the onsitetechnicians, we were able to kill the errant process. We continued with our inspection of the system, created asmall application and deployed it, then left the laboratory brimming with confidence. I went to bed that nightsure we had a lock on 3rd place.Breakfast Friday morning was a solemn occasion. Some teams had poured most of their effort into teachingtheir students programming, and at this point it was costing them a position in the top 10. No one knew thecomplete picture, but experienced program coordinators know when their team is doing well. A snap shot ofthe top 10 in the standings at that point would have shown the following: Southern Minnesota, Chicago,Cincinnati and Dayton tied for third, Twin Cities, Los Angeles, Austin, D.C., Chattanooga, Richmond, andHartford.I don’t remember what was served for breakfast and I think it had more to do with the late night greasyburgers he digested, but as we headed toward the programming competition to receive the instructions fromthe judges, our captain, Lee Reed became nauseas. My concerns about the competition vanished momentarilyas they were supplanted by worry for this young man for whom I have such high regard. While I attended toLee in the bathroom, Mr. Huggins rushed to the hotel commissary and purchased some medicine. It wasn’tlong before Lee’s stomach settled and we caught up with the rest of the team as the judge continued to laydown the law and review the programming problem.The competition problem is frequently topical. I’m not prescient just an experienced program coordinator. I’dtold the students I’d be shocked if the competition problem didn’t have something to do with hurricaneKatrina. This year the assignment was “to create a ‘Donate for Disaster Relief’ application where someone can
  8. 8. Page 8 Route 66choose from one or more charities and make a donation, all from one web site. Charities can also use the siteto see how much money has been raised for their organization.” There are 3 roles in the system: New donor,Returning Donor, and Charity. Once logged in, donors should be able to: Display their donations, create/edittheir profile, Make a donation, and checkout. Charities should be able to retrieve a report of the donationsthey have received. The system also had to have role-based security functionality. The system required thestudents to implement session management such that all the activity of a donor was captured in temporarytables until they checked out. I’m glossing over some of the details of the requirements but I think you cansee this would be a real challenge for most programmers to complete in 7 hours.Seven hours. Seven hours to digest the requirements, analyze the database, and decompose the work. Sevenhours to design a system, create wire frames, flow charts, and test plans. Seven hours to layout where all theancillary files and images reside, assign variable and file names, start writing some code. Seven hours to starttesting, figure out bugs, scrap a piece of design, redesign it, code it, test it, implement it. All the while stayingcool, cool, cool. The judges must not see you arguing. The judges must not see you frustrated. The judgesmust see an entire team working together, everyone involved and engaged. Code, test, fix. Code, test fix.Code, test, fix.“Joe, how are those screen mock-ups coming along. As soon as you’re done with that, please start on the testcases for the new donors functionality.” “Maurice, your design to list the donations for a returning donor isperfect. Does it include the database processing to limit the number of contributions displayed to 5 perpage?” “Dre, I think I goofed on the update profile routine, it’s not going to work the way I have it. I need youto help me with it and pick up the session management processing later” “Lee, the design of the pages wasfine before I saw what they look like once the images are loaded. I’m going to have to make some changes tothe page layout if this is ever going to look right!”.One Team, one computer. Must manage the clock, and must mange time at the keyboard. Code, test, fix.Code, test, fix. Code, test, fix. At 2:00, the captain scans the room. The team against the wall has beenarguing all day. They’re not gonna make it. It looks like one girl is doing all the coding for the team behindus. Over there, everyone is working like a well oiled machine. One kid is asleep at the table next to us. In thefar corner, it seems like that team has been laughing and joking since lunch, have they finished or given up?Ok, focus. Looks like Maurice has a break through on the user checkout functionality, nice to see him high-fiving Andreaus. Hey, I think it’s time we start thinking about our presentation to the judges. Let Joe keeptesting while we work on our delivery. Yikes, he’s found something I need to jump on. Joe let me back at thekeyboard to debug this while you guys keep working on your presentation. Code, test, fix. Code, test, fix.Code, test, fix… Seven hours. Just a fraction of the time spent training to get here. Has it all been wasted?Will Coach Gibran go ballistic again if we don’t win, place, or show?For young Maurice, this was his last chance for glory. The rest of the kids can come back next year, buteveryone knew that this was a team that should win. After the programming was done, Coach Sanders and Mr.Huggins picked the students up. The Chicago board of directors held a reception for them so they could winddown after the grueling competition. I have family in L.A. and was spending time with them. Later thatevening, Mr. Huggins and his dad piled the kids into his car and took them into the city to do a little siteseeing.
  9. 9. Page 9 Route 66Saturday the kids spent the day at Six Flags, while I attended meetings with the program coordinators. Afterreviewing how things went during the programming competition, I was feeling very confident about our lockon 3rd. All I ever wanted to do was help the kids earn some scholarship money and earn some bragging rightsfor the chapter. Third place would let us do that and I was feeling good about it. As the hours headed towardevening, I began rounding up the students to begin getting dressed for the banquet. I’d brought my cameraand I wanted to get some pictures of the kids before the banquet began.Once the dinner started, we settled in our seats and braced for the necessary but grueling functionary eventsthat lead up to the announcement of the competition winners. Finally the moment arrived. I pushed my chairaway from the table, certain our team would be the first winners announced. Confident we’d win somethingand that last year’s winner would win it all. Then the announcement, “and the third place winner is,Washington D.C.!” I sat there in shock. What does this mean? No way we don’t earn at least third? I wasready to call for a recount! I’m thinking, “Yvette is going to kill me if we don’t do at least as well as we did lastyear!” I looked at my boys. Big smiles on their faces. What the heck did they know? Then the nextannouncement, “and the second place winner is, Southern Minnesota!”. I’m smiling as I write this because,then I knew. I knew it. I knew it. The kids had pulled it off! Now I had a smile on my face as big astheirs. We had taken Route 66 and circumvented all the obstacles, road hazards, engine trouble, weather andeverything else thrown at us and reached our destination.Chicago is the largest chapter and accordingly had the largest contingent at the conference. When theannouncement came, “and the 2006 High School Computer Competition winner is… Chicago!”, thundererupted in the room. I leapt out of my chair and stood with my hands balled at my sides like superman,although the supermen were standing around me. Somehow, these jokers had pulled it off, and had known it,perhaps 24 hours prior. Maybe, they knew it in June when I selected the final members of the team. Maybethey knew it when they were born… In the end, the top 10 in the standings were: Chapter Points Chicago 590 Southern Minnesota 535 Washington D.C. 455 Chattanooga 400 Central Illinois 380 Richmond 355 Austin 320 Hartford 305 Philadelphia 265 Charlotte 260Well, now our students are big celebrities. Yvette used her connections to get their accomplishment told inthe Chicago Sun-Times. Bruce Montgomery has a show on Chicago Access television where they appeared,and Lauren Prophet issued pressed releases that notified the city of our victory. The students will be thespecial guests of ABN Amro at the BDPA 20th year celebration. They are having dinner with the CIO of AllstateInsurance along with her officer team. They will be touring Microsoft’s regional headquarters and it seems theopportunities keep pouring in. As a consequence of being selected to represent the Chicago chapter at the
  10. 10. Page 10 Route 66competition, each student earned $1,500 college scholarship and an Apple iPod which they will receive at the20th year celebration. As a result of winning the national competition, they won an additional $2,500scholarship and a HP Laptop computer - Must be nice.January 6, 2007, we start our journey again. We won’t be on Route 66, but whatever road we take, I knowwe’re going to have fun and learn a lot. Alexandre Dumas said, “Nothing succeeds like success”. I don’t mindhelping to prove him right year after year. I don’t know who will win in Washington D.C. next year, but I doknow whoever plans to take our title from us, had better bring a strong team, because they will have to getpast another formidable group of students brought by the Chicago chapter.