Al Khor International, Al Arqam Academy take top spots at Carnegie Mellon Qatar competition
Alice Middle East Programming Competition goes virtual as need for computer science education grows
Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), a Qatar Foundation partner university, announced the winners of the sixth annual Alice Middle East Programming Competition. Teams from Al Khor International School came in first and third place, while the second and fourth place teams were from Al Arqam Academy. A Doha College team rounded out the top five.
The competition challenges middle and high school students who are learning computing through the Alice Middle East curriculum to create animations or games using their new programming skills. The event brings together students from across Qatar to showcase their creativity and technical skills; this year, it was moved online so students could participate safely. There were 35 teams of middle and high school students who entered the contest, with 13 teams advancing to the final round.
“During this pandemic, we have seen how technology and innovation can build bridges between children and teachers, workers and employers, and friends and family who are physically distant. As the next generation looks ahead to their future studies and careers, computing skills will be necessary in nearly any field they choose,” said Saquib Razak, associate teaching professor of computer science and the co-director of the Hamad Bin Jassim Center for K-12 Computer Science Education that oversees the Alice Middle East program.
Winners were decided by judges Noha Alomari, ICT specialist at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Tony Davis, lead producer at Mezan Studios, and Eman Fituri, director of educational initiatives at Qatar Computing Research Institute.
Alice Middle East was originally developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon’s main campus to help children learn the basic concepts of computing using graphics and animation. In 2008, Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser expressed an interest in bringing Alice to Qatar. Through a grant to CMU-Q from the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), Razak and a team of researchers localized Alice to the Middle East context, creating a curriculum in Arabic and English, and developing teaching resources.
In 2018, the Qatar Ministry of Education and Higher Education incorporated Alice Middle East into the Information Communication Technology (ICT) curriculum for Qatar government schools. Today, Alice is taught to more than 5000 students per year in either English or Arabic.
Alice Middle East is now funded by the Hamad Bin Jassim Center for K-12 Computer Science Education, a partnership between CMU-Q and the Jassim and Hamad Bin Jassim Charitable Foundation.
Razak is building on the Alice Middle East program to create a three-year programming curriculum for middle school students. His research is funded through a grant to CMU-Q by QNRF.
Winners of Alice Middle East 2021
First place: Khavina Balamurugan, Karishma Ananthu Manjunath, Al Khor International School
Second place: Yaqeen Ahmed Ghazala, Raneem Yazan Migdadi, Al Arqam Academy
Third place: Jay Ahya, Rehan Khatri, Karan Suraj, Krishna Thirumalai, Al Khor International School
Fourth place: Rital Ayman Mahmoud, Sarah Abdulfattah Shafie, Al Arqam Academy
Fifth place: Tharuka Herath, Ravindu Horanage, Leisha Silas