This year’s competition’s theme was healthcare. From the competition site:
The theme for this year’s competition will be on healthcare. The possibilities are endless: mobile applications, web services, and even interfacing with Wii remotes (hint: Python can do it in just 5 lines). So put on your thinking cap and get those creative juices flowing!
It was actually quite trivial to guess some of the possible challenges especially looking at the description of the partners:
This year’s competition will be held in collaboration with the Health Promotion Board and the Singapore Anti-tuberculosis Association, to educate our youths and the public, through the competition, the benefits of healthy living and the harmful effects of smoking.
Like any well-trained product of the Singaporean Education System, my mind started racing when I read the competition’s site. I told my Vietnamese teammates during our first meeting that the people who will eventually win the competition are those who prepared for it beforehand.
Our main disagreement was the kind of preparation involved.
I shared with them that I understood how the Singaporean student’s mind generally works. There were definitely going to be teams who will attempt to spot the challenges, take a gamble and prepare a finished product before the actual competition leaving the day itself for the polishing of their work.
I was right.
On that day, I can pin-point at least 3 teams who finished their entry the minute they read the list of possible challenges to attempt. In the toilet, I heard one guy commenting to another that their friend had hit the jackpot with his project.
My teammates and I also decided to prepare for the competition. However, our preparation was confined to coding stubs that we could easily extend depending on the nature of the project. We also tested a basic system for communication between an Android application and a Django-powered portal.
Am I sore that other teams prepared beforehand. I’m not sure. I don’t exactly think they took the easy way out because the effort to prepare something before the competition isn’t trivial. What if I knew such a team won? Would I be sore? Probably. Because the efforts they took totally goes against the spirit of a 24-hour programming competition.
Yet I’m probably angrier with myself for not preparing better for the competition by writing more stubs and being more familiar with each platforms (i.e. Android and Django).
It would be a dumb-ass generalization to say that all Singaporeans spot questions and like to take the seemingly easier way out in preparation for such stuff and all foreigners do not. I do not have the temerity to assert that ONLY and ALL Singaporean students do this.
But I do know this, speaking as a recovering member of the Singaporean Education System, and that is our system does have the tendency to produce such students.
Regardless of the behavior of foreign students, it would be a total shame if Singaporeans only know how to exploit loopholes to win. Even more of a shame, if we do exploit such loopholes and do not win.