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Young programmers competed at Aalto – competitions help improve one's programming skills and can even open the doors to university

Good performance at the Finnish Olympiad in Informatics can help upper secondary school students get into a Finnish university to study technology and pursue a career as a successful coder
Henrik Aalto, Roope Salmi and Unto Karila sitting on the stairs and showing their certificates
Henrik Aalto, Roope Salmi and Unto Karila were the top three of this year's Finnish Olympiad in Informatics. Photo: Jukka Suomela / Aalto University

The finals of the Finnish Olympiad in Informatics 2020 took place at Aalto University on Sunday February 9. Roope Salmi, a student at Otaniemi Upper Secondary School, won the competition. He has performed well at the Olympiad also in the previous years. Henrik Aalto from Munkkiniemi School came in second and Unto Karila from Tapiola Upper Secondary School came third in the competition.

The best three competitors received monetary awards, whereas the top ten competitors can directly apply to study technology or a mathematical or scientific field at several Finnish universities. The Finnish team for the international programming contests, the Baltic Olympiad in Informatics (BOI) and the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI), will be formed of the Finnish Olympiad contests.

Jukka Suomela, Assistant Professor at Aalto University Department of Computer Science, has been one of the organizers for this event for years. This year, he took responsibility of arranging the event together with Heikki Hyyrö from Tampere University, Antti Laaksonen from the University of Helsinki, and several volunteers, some of whom are students at Aalto.

‘My first experience with the competition was at the time when the participants still saved their solutions on a 3.5 inch floppy disk and sent them over to the organizers. Nowadays, the participants receive feedback for their solutions within a few seconds and anyone can follow the finals live on YouTube,’ Suomela explains.

He notes that universities highly value successful participation in programming contests because making contest assignments develops not only one’s programming but also their mathematical and logical reasoning skills. ‘These days, all of those skills are helpful in technology and science.’

Successful participation in the contest is a great starting point for university studies, and eventually also for a career as a top coder in the software industry or as a theoretical computer scientist in the academia. ‘Good performance in the contest looks good on CV and helps to stand out,’ Suomela sums up.

The Finnish Olympiad in Informatics is intended for all comprehensive school and upper secondary school students who know how to program. The first round of the competition takes place online. Before the contest, the students can improve their programming skills by taking online courses and by using the Finnish website, Kisakoodaus.fi.

Suomela reminds that programming and algorithmic problem solving are skills that one will learn by doing, starting early, and practicing frequently. ‘Programming contests and training for them are an encouraging way to develop one’s skills.’

Read more about the possibility to get into study technology at Aalto University after successfully participating in the Finnish Olympiad in Informatics in the Finnish version of this article.

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