IBM Destination Z - Group home

2014 IBM Master the Mainframe Contest Kicks Off

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:28 PM

It’s time to “Hack the Gibson.” Part one of the 2014 IBM Master the Mainframe Contest for students across the Unites States and Canada has begun!

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—and no experience is 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.

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:

“It didn't feel like I was doing much work, but once I completed it, I realized how much I have done on a mainframe.”

“There was the PERFECT amount of help; along with the perfect amount of learning going on. As computer science majors, you need to learn—not just plug and chug; and I felt that this was a good balance for both of those factors.”

“Getting to work with a mainframe, as I've never really understood what a mainframe was and it was a really amazing experience being able to work with one.”

Last year, 5,611 students from high schools, colleges and universities across North America registered to compete, marking the ninth consecutive year of growth for the contest since its inception in 2005. Though this is the tenth annual running of the contest, past competitors will find a completely new experience waiting for them.

The contest is still divided into three parts, with each part increasing in difficulty and prize value. This year, in order to complete part one and be among the 2,600 winners to score a custom Master the Mainframe T-shirt, students will log onto z/VM, Linux on System z and z/OS, completing challenges to explore all three OSs. Students who complete part two will gain experience with z/TPF, NetView, several programming languages and DB2, just to name a few.

Those brave students who venture into the extremely difficult part three challenges will have an opportunity to gain real-world experience using DB2 and COBOL while analyzing and reporting transactions. These are all excellent interview discussion points when a company wants to talk to you as a result of your name listed on the prestigious part three Wall of Fame!

While contestants will gain some impressive enterprise computing skills, they’ll also have the chance to rack up some impressive prizes, including tablet computers, expenses-paid trips to the mainframe lab in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and custom Master the Mainframe gear. Even more significant than the $54,000 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 two 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 last week and closing Dec. 31. Registration remains open through Dec. 31.

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 simply put “Audit” as their university when they register, and N/A for the professor name.

Similar contests are also running in several countries in the next few months, including ones in BeNeLux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg), China, Spain, Spanish South America and United Kingdom. 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!

Troy Crutcher is Global Master the Mainframe Project Manager for IBM Academic Initiative System z.