A COMPUTER whizzkid has won a national competition held by a leading university to develop a new software programme to make teachers’ lives easier.
Matthew Watson, a student at Hartlepool’s Dyke House Sports and Technology College, in Mapleton Road, has won Cambridge University’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Hour of Code competition.
The 16-year-old took up the challenge to create a computer programme that would save teachers time and mark pupils’ work.
It sees Matthew – who even runs an online forum to teach computing to teachers – use computer programming language to design, create, test and evaluate an algorithm to set questions, mark the answers and display the scores.
In a letter confirming his winning entry, Cambridge bosses wrote: “We had a number of entries and after careful consideration from the judges, I am pleased on behalf of the MOOC team, to offer our congratulations to you for winning on category three of the competition.
“The judges decision was unanimous and specifically, they felt your video showed that a solution has been developed for the problem set.
“The code was shown and the final outcome, and there was clear emphasis of design considerations, implementation choice and testing.”
Matthew said: “A vast majority of a teacher’s time is spent marking.
“This time could be better spent planning exciting and engaging lessons, which is what my programme should fix.
“It should allow teachers to set a test for students which would test their knowledge of a certain subject and automatically mark their answers.”
His efforts have won the school £500 of computing vouchers and a class set of credit-card-sized single-board computers, called Raspberry Pis.
Owen Rymer, the school’s head of computing, said he saw the competition online and set the task for his computer science students, giving them a week to attempt the challenge.
He added that Matthew had something to discuss regarding the challenge every day until he had finished.
He said: “As soon as Matthew was aware of the chance to solve a difficult problem he jumped at it.
“Matthew is a real problem-solver and has produced a really good solution which has been recognised at a national level.
“Matthew will go far and is due to succeed in GCSE computer science this summer.
“He is set to have a successful future in the field of computer science.
“Matthew makes the most out of his time at Dyke House College.”
A video link to how Matthew came up with his programme is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZPQaha-nr8