Interested in programming competitions for your students but travel is not in the budget? You may want to look into the ACSL contests. This announcement came via by the CSTA member listserv.

The American Computer Science League opens registration for this year’s contest September 1st.

ACSL is An international computer science competition for grades 6-12 that is way more than just programming!!!

ACSL gives your school the opportunity to:

- Learn about really important computer science concepts
- Engage in creative algorithmic solutions to problems
- Compete against other schools from around the world
- Attend an Invitational All-Star Contest at a common site

There are four contests that are administered at each school monthly. Scores are cumulative. There are four divisions to choose from based upon student ability. Each contest consists of two parts:

- Short Problems – 5 questions on computer science topics that students must be taught before taking the test
- Programming Problem – creatively designed problems that students may solve using a language of their choice

Mention that you are a CSTA member and get a free Contest CD ($20) upon joining. You are a CSTA member aren’t you? Join for free at http://csta.acm.org/

ACSL is also on approved activities list of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

I definitely encourage doing this contest as educational, fun, and a good change of pace for students. Though I am not teaching now, I did ACSL for a number of years with my students. The contests cover a mix of standard CS classroom topics like analyzing the flow of a program, what is the value of variables, etc. But it also includes a number of interesting CS topics that you may not otherwise cover, such as Boolean algebra, simple digital circuit diagrams, binary and hex arithmetic, etc. The programming problems tend to get more challenging as the year goes on, but most students can usually do the easier parts, while your best students will almost always be challenged. It did take some of my classroom time, but I really considered it a great investment for what students were learning (and getting excited about). In fact, some students who went into engineering programs came back to tell me the ACSL topics were a good preparation for intro engineering classes in college, especially in electrical and computer engineering.