Talented Year 7 students Jessie and Barren were invited to the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford on Sunday 17 February as finalists in a UK-wide competition – The UK Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge.

Reaching the final of the Juniors age group is an impressive achievement, as 59,804 students entered the first round for the age group (10–12). Jessie and Barren were among the top 60 highest achieving students invited to the final round in their age group, and were presented with their finalist’s certificates at a prize-giving ceremony at Hertford College.

The UK Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge, supported by Google, is designed to get students excited about computing and computational thinking. It is a problem-solving contest with questions inspired by topics in Computer Science. In the first round, held in their own schools, students have to try and solve as many problems as possible in the allotted time. The highest scoring students from the four oldest age groups (Elite, Seniors, Intermediate, and Juniors) were then invited to the Department of Computer Science at Oxford for the finals over two weekends in February.

Barren: The day was very fun and exciting. There were about 60 people in our 10-12 year group and there were about 200 people who got in the finals (from all age group). There were 4 age groups : 6-8, 8-10, 10-12, 12-14, 14-16 and 16-18. The day was split in 7 parts: Bebras test/ Lesson, break, lesson/ Bebras test, lunch/ tour, tour/lunch, another lesson, and award ceremony.
The first part was the Bebras test. All the questions were really hard and it took me a long time to do it, but it was a fun experience. There was also a lesson (6th period) about a program – Elizabeth – that we could play with at home. The program is just like Siri except for the fact that you can change the programming of this so that it will give you different responses. After that, we went on a tour at the Hertford College. We visited the big dorm, the library and the chapel. Last but not least, there was a award ceremony. The marks were very close and the first two places even tied! So there were two 1st place awards and one 3rd place. The first place got 206 marks while the third place got 198 marks. The full marks was 252 marks. I got 166 marks, which was a pretty good score because less than 2% of all students in the second round got higher than 140 marks. I was very satisfied with my score.

Jessie: Oxford is known as the “City of Spires” because of its beautiful skyline of gothic towers and steeples.  As most of us know, the most famous thing in Oxford is Oxford University. Oxford University is known for being the second oldest university in the English-speaking world; most of its buildings were built in the 15th to 17th centuries. As you walk around Oxford University and visit its several colleges each with their own view and styles, you will soon see the beauty of this university and the history of each college.

Hertford College, where the Bebras Computational Thinking Competition is held, is also a college where you can enjoy your day under the sunlight and some breeze. Apart from the University of Oxford, the most iconic sight in Oxford is Radcliffe Camera. An extraordinary building in the middle of a square surrounded by impressive colleges and a trip to Oxford is incomplete without at least popping by to see it. I was really amazed by the Bridge of Sighs, connecting colleges, resembling a place where students sigh as they past because they had an exam coming up. I was honored to have the chance to walk through the Bridge of Sighs like a normal Oxford student would. The Bodleian Library was absolutely jaw-dropping. Its stunning interior made it seem like a royal library. The amount of books it owned was beyond belief and the silence in the library gave it a sense of mystery and elegance. The trip to Oxford was extremely enjoyable and I really suggest visiting there when you get the chance.