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Data processing group continues its winning ways

By any measure, they have become an almost dynastic presence in national high school computer competitions.

This year has been no different. For the fifth consecutive year and sixth out of seven years, five Rochester students representing the Southern Minnesota chapter of the Black Data Processing Associates won a high school contest that featured 19 teams from across the U.S. The southern Minnesota team won with a score of 871 points, followed by Detroit's 807 points and Ohio's 628 points. In three of the nine years that BDPA-Southern Minnesota didn't win the competition, it came in second place.

The highlight of the two-day competition is a seven-hour programming project. This year, students were required to create a web application to allow customers to configure and purchase computer orders based on an inventory of electronic parts from multiple vendors.

This year's team includes Hassan Hassan, Zakaria Ahmed, Daniel Sheppard, Herchran Singh and Adwait Walimbe. Each student won a $1,500 scholarship and an HP laptop.

The five Rochester students prepared for the competition by participating in a two-month "boot camp" this summer, during which they honed their programming, project management and presentation skills for up to 20 hours per week.


The team was selected from a pool of students that met each Saturday between December and May. Representing half a dozen ethnicities, the students, in grades 7 through 12, learn how to create database-driven web applications using HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP and MySQL.

Zachary Garbow, a former IBM employee and entrepreneur, is the technical coordinator and lead instructor for the southern Minnesota chapter. More than a dozen volunteers from IBM and Mayo Clinic assist the class, called the Southern Minnesota Youth Computer Training Program.

"While our goal this year was to win, I'm most proud of our students not for the first place result, but for their preparation, work ethic and teamwork throughout the year leading up to the competition," Garbow said.

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