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2013 IBM Master the Mainframe Contest: It’s On!

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:40 PM

It’s happening again—thousands of students, hundreds of schools, one mainframe. The 2013 IBM Master the Mainframe Contest: It’s on!

The contest, sponsored by the IBM Academic Initiative System z program, runs every fall semester, offering students a fun and accessible introduction to the System z platform (no experience necessary). The IBM team that designs the contest—with input from industry and academia—seeks to provide a learning experience for students. Participants not only gain hands-on, marketable skills but also a better understanding of how mainframes are used in the real world, including their place in the world of analytics, mobile and cloud.

Once they get to know the mainframe, students enjoy what they find. Here are some anonymous survey comments submitted after the beginning of last year’s contest:

“I am half way through my CS degree but have not had real life experience. This is amazing. I could do this all day!”

“The entire thing was enjoyable. Easy and simple but wasn't overly simplified.”

“It's fun. Instructions are written in a cheerful and exciting tone. Everything is crystal clear.”

Last year, 4,682 students from high schools, colleges and universities across North America registered to compete, marking the eighth consecutive year of growth for the contest since its inception in 2005. Though this is the ninth annual running of the contest, past competitors will find a completely new experience waiting for them. (Students can compete every year as long as they’re still taking at least three credits at a high school, college or university.)

The contest is still divided into three parts, with each part increasing in difficulty and prize value. This year, though, for the first time, in order to complete Part 1 and be among the 2,600 winners to score a custom Master the Mainframe T-shirt, students will log onto z/OS and Linux on System z, completing challenges to explore both OSs. Students who complete Part 2 will gain experience with z/TPF and z/VM, giving them a hands-on opportunity to learn about four mainframe OSs! While exploring the z/VM OS, students will also learn about the mainframe’s recent integration with the OpenStack cloud-computing framework.

Those brave students who venture into the extremely difficult Part 3 challenges will also have an opportunity to use Rational Developer for System z in the cloud, another exciting first for the contest.

While contestants will gain some impressive enterprise computing skills, they’ll also have the chance to rack up some impressive prizes, including Google Nexus 10 tablets, expenses-paid trips to the mainframe lab in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and custom Master the Mainframe gear. Even more significant than the $53,000 in prizes available this year, though, is the chance for students to build their resumes and make connections with enterprise computing employers.

Several employers have already requested to be connected with students who complete this year’s Part 2 challenges and who wish to pursue opportunities on the platform. Employers interested in recruiting top talent through the contest, should contact the IBM Academic Initiative System z team at

Registration is open, with the contest starting at noon Eastern on Monday, Oct. 7, and closing Dec. 28. Registration remains open through Dec. 20.

While students outside of the U.S. and Canada are not eligible for prizes, they are absolutely invited to join the contest for the hands-on experience. To do so, students can select “International Audit” as their country when they register.

Similar contests are also running in several countries in the next few months, including one in China that has already launched. For information and links on the lineup of international contests as they become available, visit the IBM Mainframe Contests homepage.

Please help spread the word to any students who might be interested in bolstering their credentials and having fun on a world-class computing system. And good luck to the thousands of students who will Master the Mainframe this fall!

Mike Todd is the IBM Academic Initiative System z advisor.