• Catherine’s on the ball with bronze medal in national computer technology olympiad
TECH-SAVVY Clarendon High School pupil Catherine Ball returned home with a bronze medal after representing her school and province in the National Computer Applications Technology (CAT) Olympiad in Cape Town last month.
The computer whiz zipped through the first round of Olympiad during school, achieving a top 10 position in the country from the 10983 pupils that entered. She received an all-expenses paid trip to Cape Town to compete in the final round, where she placed third.
“The first round made my brain so tired. I finished the Olympiad in time but never thought I had achieved one of the top results in the country,” said Ball, who is completing matric this year.
She said the Olympiad tested problem-solving skills and required pupils to be broad-minded, show creativity and demonstrate competent mathematical abilities.
The final round included two one-hour tests and a four-hour project on the theme of the Summer Olympic Games, said South African Computer Olympiad Trust manager Michael Cameron. The project required the pupils to prepare an A3 info-poster which the Olympic committee can use in schools to promote the Olympics.
“The 10 finalists were provided with big databases and complex spreadsheets. They had to develop a formula to calculate points for the triathlon and another to calculate and rank times taken for the marathon to determine who would qualify for the coming Olympics.
“They also had to teach themselves a new skill that is not in the school curriculum. For this they were given an eight page document headed ‘how to create a pivot table and manipulate it’.
“One pupil wrote after the project, ‘I didn’t even know computers can do things like that’. They also sourced and customised graphic images to produce a creative poster to present relevant information effectively.”
This is the first time Ball has represented her province academically. She was also the only representative from East London and one of only three girls in the final round at the national event.
“The final round opened my mind so much. The calibre of the competitors was so high. I learned so much from others in the competition,” Ball said.
“I know that I made the right choice doing CAT. It is my favourite subject and now I’ve seen that it can take me to another level. I was a bit nervous about the competitive environment of the competition, but everyone there was so supportive. It showed me that not all competitions need to be competitive.”
At the awards dinner, guest speaker Barbara Mallinson, founder of Obami, a digital learning solutions company that helps schools mainly in Africa, said: “Entrepreneurs chase opportunity. They have grit, take risks and persist through the hard times. Entrepreneurs drive innovation.”
Mallinson challenged the finalists to not only seek rewards for themselves but also to create opportunities for others.
Clarendon High School deputy principal Julie Patrick said: “This is an amazing achievement for Catherine. Clarendon is very proud of her. She is the first girl in our school to ever make it to the final round. She has set the bar high for future CAT girls. This is history in the making.”
Ball hopes to study health science and work in pathology after finishing school.
“I think CAT should be a compulsory subject instead of LO [Life Orientation] because these days everything is on computers and people need to have the skills to work them well. It is such an interesting and most useful subject.
“ It helps practically in life and your career.”