Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

June, 2008

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    A Whole Pile of Programming Competition Questions

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    I was looking through the web site for the HP Code Wars competition the other day and came across the page where they list the questions they have used in this annual high school programming competition since 1999. (The previous years questions – including 2008 – are here.)

    It looks like they have had between 12 and 18 questions each year. There should be something for everyone here wether you are looking for projects to prepare your own team for a programming competition or are looking for interesting projects to assign in a class. They have solutions posted (usually in either Java or C++) for some of the more recent year’s questions. I am looking for some spare time to code up some of them in Visual Basic and/or C# myself. These are the sorts of mental exercises I like to play with in my spare time. Yes, some of us do code for the fun on it.

    If you are at a high school in Texas, especially in the Houston area, you may want to look into HP Code Wars for next school year. I’m actually thinking I may make it down there myself – Microsoft has been a co-sponsor for about 10 years now. Plus I love Texas. You just can’t get good TexMex where I live. That’s one more reason I am looking forward to NECC in San Antonio later this month. Hope to see some of you there!

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Articles About STEM Education

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    Lately (and about time if you ask me)  the problem of computer science enrollment in particular and STEM (science, technology, engineering and Math) in general seem to be getting more attention. Here are a couple of articles that people have brought to my attention that I think are worth sharing.

    Save STEM or watch America fail – It doesn’t get more blunt than that! This article from eSchool News covers a recent summit in Washington DC. It seems like people are saying the right things. People like Bill Gates and Michael Dell are putting their foundation’s money where their mouth is. But is it enough? Are we really committed as a nation to fix this problem?

    Fewer students pursue computer-related degrees – Well I’ve been saying that for a while. And according to the article:

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 854,000 professional IT jobs will be added between 2006 and 2016, an increase of about 24 percent. When replacement jobs are added in, total IT job openings in the 10-year period is estimated at 1.6 million.

    The bureau estimates that one in 19 new jobs created in the 10-year period will be professional IT positions.

    "The fact remains that technology permeates all businesses now," said Lou Gellos, a spokesman for Microsoft Corp. "All companies have that person down the hall to help with computer issues."

    This is not a problem we can fix by bringing in people from overseas or by offshoring. One of the big needs these days is computer security professionals and no one in their right mind wants to off shore that!

    And on the positive note, in this interview with Bill Gates (Bill Gates Unfiltered ) one of the things Bill talks about is that he is taking online courses on a regular basis. Yes, the “smartest man in the world” works hard to keep learning and to broaden his knowledge base. If that doesn’t inspire people with the need for life long learning what will? Some of what Bill studies is science – biology and chemistry come up – but there is history in his schedule as well. Having a well rounded education never gets old. BTW there are lots of Bill Gates interviews this week as he prepares to step down from full time work at Microsoft to focus on his foundation. This video interview at Channel 8 is very good.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Talking about Defense in Depth

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    Last week I was down at Pace University in New York City where I gave the opening keynote talk for a high school computer forensics competition. I had a very attentive audience for my talk but I also I really enjoyed seeing/hearing the presentations the students did for the competition. There was clearly a lot of work and a lot of learning going on. One of the things I talked about in my talk, which was generally about defensive actions to protect software in general and operating systems in particular, was Defense in Depth. I only spent a short time on it but it was clear to me that I could have spent a lot more time on it. As regular readers know I believe that students in computer science should start learning about security early.

    Just by coincidence, this week, I received the regular security newsletter that Microsoft sends out and there was a reference to an article by Kai Axford, a Senior Security Strategist with the Microsoft Trustworthy Computing Group, on this very topic. In this article Kai talks about Seven Layers of defense in depth:

    • Layer 1 Policies, Procedures, and Awareness (All Bark and No Bite)
    • Layer 2: Physical Security (Gates, Guards, and Guns)
    • Layer 3: Perimeter Security (Living on the Edge)
    • Layer 4: Network Security (Protecting Your House)
    • Layer 5: Host Security (Save the Box, Save the Network)
    • Layer 6: Application Security (If You Build It…Securely, They Won't Come)
    • Layer 7: Data Security (If Your Terabyte Falls in the Middle of the Active Directory Forest…)

    It’s not a long article but there is a lot of good information and a good start to a serious discussion about software as part of a complete system and what it means to keep things safe. And if you want more, you can find Kai’s highly rated on-demand videos here.

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