Student coding challenge surges in popularity - Education Matters Magazine
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Student coding challenge surges in popularity

student coding challenge

They say the best way to learn computer programming is through practical hands-on experience, and Grok Academy’s NCSS Challenge manages to achieve this by providing students with engaging real-world coding concepts and weekly programming challenges, reinforced by the added incentive of a little friendly competition.

With more than 12 years of experience facilitating student coding challenges, the NCSS Challenge remains Grok Academy’s most popular challenge – more than doubling its registration numbers from the previous year in the February 2023 Challenge to more than 20, 000 students from 1,100 schools.

The NCSS Challenge teaches students to code in Python, an easy to learn scripting language used for many different purposes such as web applications and scientific research. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Reddit all use Python in their infrastructure and web services.

The goal of the NCSS Challenge is to make computer programming accessible to all students, and thanks to the generous support of WiseTech Global, the NCSS Challenge is free for all Australian students, from 2023.

Compete and learn how to program at the same time

As part of the challenge, aspiring young programmers complete weekly coding challenges over a five-week period, with new and exciting coding challenges released each week for the competitors to solve.

The challenge is particularly well suited for teaching coding and computer programming curriculum because it encourages participation from all skill levels. Students will learn to code as they move through the competition and will be provided with supplementary content that teaches them the coding principals, before presenting unique problems to test their knowledge.

All the programming problems have auto-marking and intelligent feedback to assist students and make sure they deeply understand the content. Grok Academy also provides live online tutors to assist students if they get stuck, who are happy to answer questions about future careers and further education in tech.

A challenge stream from every skill level

According the Grok Academy team, “the NCSS Challenge is a competition for every student. That means students who’ve never coded as well as those with years of experience.”

Challenger levels that range from newbie coders to intermediate level computer programmers. For more seasoned coders, more complex problems range from relatively simple, to mind-bending difficulty.

  • The Newbies stream of the NCSS Challenge has been built for students with no experience in coding at all. It uses a friendly block-based coding environment to introduce fundamental computational thinking concepts.
  • The Beginners stream of the NCSS Challenge is the best stream for most students. It introduces fundamental computational thinking concepts, plus adds some fun stuff on top.
  • The Intermediate stream of the NCSS Challenge is for students who have completed the Beginners stream and want to learn more. It introduces data structures, files and more ways to use functions.

This year the Grok team recommends students only do Intermediate if they’ve done Beginners, or an equivalent Python course before. Additionally, Grok is offering two versions of the Beginners challenge, one in Blockly (block-based coding) and one in regular Python. The Newbies stream is friendlier for younger students, so that students in primary school can be involved too!

The next NCSS Challenge will run in July.

For more information, visit

About Grok Academy

Grok (verb): to understand intuitively or by empathy.

Grok Academy’s mission is to educate all learners in transformative computing skills, knowledge and dispositions, empowering them to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of the future. For the Grok Team (also known as Grokkers), computing encompasses basic digital literacy through to advanced computer science and related disciplines, and the application of these skills across all disciplines.

“We believe that a solid computer science understanding is vital whether you want to fight climate change, make the next blockbuster movie or unlock the secrets of the universe. We’ve taught thousands of students across Australia to program in classrooms, lecture halls and online, and are now bringing top-notch STEM education into classrooms and homes around the world.”

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