It was a very successful season for the 2014 U.S. and Canada Master the Mainframe Contest. Total registration for the contest reached more than 4,900 contestants, all vying for the top prize spots.
To get to the top spot, participants had to pass three parts of the contest. The contest consisted of:
Part 1: Breaking the Ice
The students download emulators to access the contest system in a variety of ways: z/OS, z/VM and Linux on z Systems. As the contest is No Experience Necessary, and we walk them through all stages of what these different operating systems do and how to navigate them. All 2,200 Part 1 winners received a custom Master the Mainframe T-shirt to sport around campus.
Part 2: Practical Experience
Students dive into the depths of what each OS can do. We have them working with JCL and SDSF, setting permissions using RACF, checking out z/OS Communications Server, OMEGAMON, NetView and z/TPF. They are exposed to various programming languages such as Assembler, C, COBOL and Java. Part 2 winners—there were 75—received IBM swag in the form of sweatshirts, messenger bags, sports bottles and several other items.
Part 3: Real-World Challenge
Competitors worked on a real-world credit card application that sorts and manipulates data in a way that will benefit real companies. Part 3 saw a total of 66 students competing for the top five spots. A major component of the judging process was to run each of their applications to see what they had come up with in terms of basic daily reports and creating new analysis reports. These top five students went above and beyond the expected outcome of the challenge. As an example, a couple of these students included future projection reports, which would let this company see trends in credit card spending and what the future weeks ahead would look like. Another student was able to track fraudulent charges based on how the structure of each credit number was constructed. These winners win a Google Nexus 10 tablet computer along with the grand prize of an all-expenses paid trip to the IBM lab in Poughkeepsie, New York.
These top students will fly to New York on March 23 and will be hosted around the IBM lab for a fun-filled two days. An awards ceremony will be given in their honor March 24 with special IBM guest speakers, including Ross Mauri, general manager, IBM z Systems, and Maria Boonie, vice president, IBM z Systems Software Development.
I would like to formally introduce the top five winners.
First Place: Kevin Matesi, Northern Illinois University
Kevin is a second-year graduate student at Northern Illinois University, and plans to graduate in May. His areas of focus are enterprise computing and databases. He has taken additional classes in Windows programming and artificial intelligence and is actively searching for a career that affords him the opportunity to work with mainframes and/or databases.
Second Place: Joseph Bloom, Deerfield (Illinois) High School
Joseph is a senior at Deerfield High School in Deerfield, Illinois. Next year, he plans to study computer science, but does not yet know which university he will attend. When he’s not at a computer, he plays trombone in the school band program.
Third Place: Jeremy Krach, University of Maryland
Jeremy Krach is a sophomore in computer science at the University of Maryland, College Park. In addition to studying computer science, Jeremy is a member of the first cybersecurity honors college in the nation, Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students. At UMD, Jeremy has participated in research on designing cryptographic protocols with the Maryland Cybersecurity Center and vulnerability prediction research in software packages with Software Engineering at Maryland. Upon graduating in 2017, he looks forward to pursuing a mix of software engineering and cybersecurity based positions, designing and implementing secure tools and systems to help make our technology-driven world safer for everyone.
Fourth Place: Hongzhe (Henry) Liu, Algonquin (Massachusetts) Regional High School
Henry Liu will graduate in 2016 and plans on studying artificial intelligence in college.
He believes that artificial intelligence is the next big scientific frontier and wants to push progress forward. His dream job is to develop artificial intelligence, but he would also be interested in game design or a similar computer science occupation. He has always had a fascination with video game artificial intelligence design, and the desire to make his own vide game with artificial intelligence design was what incentivized him to teach himself programming in the first place. He hopes to land a job where he can pursue his dreams and also advance the technological frontier.
Fifth Place: Steven Hoover, Syracuse University
Steven is a graduate student studying information management at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and psychology and a master’s degree in library science from Indiana University. He is currently working as a senior assistant librarian at Syracuse University’s Bird Library and as a teaching assistant for GET 239: Enterprise Technologies. His ideal job would involve employing mainframe-jujutsu skills to overcome complex large-scale computing challenges.
A big congratulations to everyone who competed this year. It was a close race for the top spots, but everyone should be very proud of their accomplishments this year!
Troy D Crutcher is the Global Master the Mainframe Contest Project Manager with the IBM Academic Initiative, z Systems.