Earlier this year we welcomed a number of students to the Microsoft UK HQ in Reading for the national finals of the MOS World Championship, and to find out who would be making the trip to Texas to compete for the ultimate prize.
Here to tell the story of one #MOSWC finalist is Laurence Boulter, ICT Leader at Ormiston Park Academy, Essex. Back in June when we hosted the UK Finals, Ormiston Park Academy placed 1st and 2nd in the Word examinations, with Alfie Fuller-Burgess being crowned UK Champion, and subsequently travelled to Dallas…
Alfie of Ormiston Park Academy heads to Dallas to compete in the World Championship for Microsoft Office Specialist
Earlier this year Alfie Fuller-Burgess of Ormiston Park Academy became British Champion for MOS (Microsoft Office Specialist) in Word. At the UK finals, held at Microsoft’s UK HQ in Reading, Alfie and year 9 classmate Logan Cooper took first and second place of around 10,000 UK school and university students who were entered for the competition. As UK champion, Alfie was required to take part in the World Championship in Dallas and on August 8th we set-off from Heathrow to the US ready to take part in the finals on Monday 10th. The party included, Alfie Fuller-Burgess; Danny Burgess (Alfie’s father), Andrew Griggs of Prodigy Learning, the event organisers; and myself, Laurence Boulter, Alfie’s teacher at Ormiston Park Academy and coach for the competition.
The competition was taking place at the Gaylord Texan Resort, a short drive from Fort Worth airport. After a night’s rest at a hotel near the airport and a stop-off at the local shopping mall, on Sunday with temperatures passing 40C we arrived at the Gaylord Resort. It was then that we realised that this was a bigger contest and more serious event than we had ever imagined. The hotel itself with its constant stream of black limousines and gigantic atrium with bars, banana trees, waterfalls, yellow brick road and model railways was enough to make us believe that Alfie was competing in the Premiership League. When we saw the rival teams from China, Vietnam, Singapore, Canada, Korea, Puerto Rico, Peru, almost every country on Earth, with their team shirts and MOS coaches we understood that we were part of the World Cup. While lunch was provided Alfie registered for the competition and was interviewed to establish his preference of keyboard. We were then told the schedule for testing over the following day. Alfie was asked to report to the testing session at 4:30 the next day.
After breakfast Monday morning the competition started in earnest. A reception in the morning included a presentations from Certiport, Microsoft and Pearson VUE all undertaken in true Texan style with Country and Western Music, cowboy hats and enormous, loud projections. The first groups went off to complete their testing and Alfie and I went to Alfie’s room to complete some practice tests. When the time came for testing Alfie, his Dad and I made sure we were at the examination room in good time. Competitors were lined up and after a brief pep-talk, led into the examination room and I waited outside with Alfie’s dad.
The examination was meant to last 50 minutes. After 20 minutes the Puerto Rico competitor came out of the testing room punching the air and was congratulated by his support team. His display of confidence made our hearts sink. Twice more the door opened and members of the Asian teams emerged, but these competitors were not sitting the same examination as Alfie. The fourth time the door opened Alfie stepped out. Alfie’s Dad and I commiserated him, but Alfie pointed out that he had a delayed start to the exam as he helped another student that was having problems getting the exam started, and then found that his own examination session was not set-up properly. Our hopes rose again.
Over dinner Alfie compared notes with the competitor from Puerto Rico. They both experienced problematic questions. Alfie had problems importing text that did not import in the order outlined in the instructions, the Puerto Rican competitor had problems placing an image as required. Both competitors had arrived at different solutions to these puzzles, so we were no closer to working out who might have won, and of course we had no idea how competitors had fared in the morning sessions. We still felt, however, that Alfie had a good chance.
After dinner Alfie joined a Microsoft session where three head developers from Microsoft wanted feedback on Microsoft products. Competitors had to sign a waiver for this session that allowed Microsoft to use any ideas that competitors suggested.
That evening was my last in Dallas. I was heading home the next day to leave Alfie and his dad time to enjoy the rest of the visit together. Before heading off to my hotel I spent an hour with Alfie, his dad and Andrew Griggs. We sat watching a 15 metre TV screen in the bar and reflected on the trip and concluded that Alfie was still a contender and that the awards ceremony on Wednesday would be very exciting.
The following day competitors would spend the morning at a water park and then spend the evening at a rodeo BBQ. On Wednesday the results would be announced at a grand award ceremony where all competitors would be asked to step onto the stage and present themselves. But, I would have to watch Alfie’s appearance online with the rest of the world as it was streamed from Dallas.
Back home I settled down to watch the broadcast of the awards ceremony. A fantastic feature of the event was the insistence that all competitors took their turn on stage and announced themselves. Alfie’s turn came and he walked onto the stage proudly and announced himself as the UK competitor. Now I may be biased, but even though Alfie did not feature in the prizes, I’d swear he received the loudest cheer. If you search YouTube for “MOS World Championships Awards Ceremony 2015” you will find Alfie appear on the 34th minute. But if you watch just a bit more you will appreciate just how seriously the event is taken and its international significance. I spoke to Alfie straight after the ceremony. He was a little upset, but his first words were “I’m doing Excel next year!”.