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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Receives National Community Engagement Award for Great Computer Challenge Collaboration

By Brendan O'Hallarn

At the Great Computer Challenge last weekend in Webb University Center, Old Dominion University was presented an award by WHRO for its longtime commitment to tech education.

The local public broadcaster annually co-sponsors the Great Computer Challenge with Old Dominion. For that effort, WHRO was honored last fall by the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) for community engagement on a local project

At the time that award was presented, WHRO requested that a companion award be given to Old Dominion for its collaboration in making the Great Computer Challenge a can't-miss event on the spring calendar for local, technology-inclined students.

"It was a very kind gesture by our partners at WHRO, and a recognition of the ongoing support of this great event," said Doug Streit, Old Dominion's campus coordinator for the Great Computer Challenge.

The award was one of three received by WHRO at the NETA annual conference, which saw 20 public broadcasting stations from across the country honored for their work in community engagement, instructional media and content production.

The Great Computer Challenge was recognized by NETA because of the competitive opportunity it offers students from kindergarten through 12th grade to demonstrate their knowledge of various computer applications and programming skills.

At this year's senior Great Computer Challenge on March 5, Nancy Grden, executive director of Old Dominion's Strome Entrepreneurial Center, offered welcoming remarks. She and her staff then awarded coaching and peer mentoring sessions at the Strome Center for senior division winners.

The Great Computer Challenge was launched in 1983 when Grace Little, then-director of academic and web technologies at Old Dominion University, had the idea to host an annual programming contest. Twenty teams of local high school students were invited to compete in basic computer programming using ODU's mainframe computer. ODU faculty members came up with the programming problems and judged the students' solutions.

Since the partnership with WHRO and the Consortium for Interactive Instruction began, the Great Computer Challenge has grown to include hundreds of teams. It now consists of two separate events, the senior challenge for grades 6 to 12 (which was March 5) and the junior challenge for kindergarten to fifth-grade students, which is scheduled for May 14.