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Congrats to Kodecliker Anant, ACSL Elementary Division 2020-2021 International Gold Winner!

Kodecliker Anant, rising sixth grader from the Nysmith School for the Gifted in Herndon, Northern Virginia, is the international gold winner of the 2020-2021 ACSL Elementary Division! We spoke to Anant to hear about his experience and how Kodeclik helped him excel in this international competition.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Anant.

I have just completed fifth grade and am moving on to middle school after this summer. I’m very interested in computer science and coding especially which got me attracted to the ACSL Elementary Division contest. I enjoy playing guitar and like to read. I am also very interested in sports.

So what does the ACSL Elementary Contest involve?

The ACSL Elementary Division has 4 topics. There is no coding; only conceptual working out of math-like problems. The first topic is Computer Number Systems where we have to know how to work with number systems other than decimal (e.g., binary, hexadecimal, and octal). Then there is the expression notation topic where we learn prefix and postfix notation besides the infix notation we are used to in school. The third topic is Boolean Algebra where we learn about boolean operations like AND, OR, and NOT. Finally, the fourth topic is Graph Theory where we learn about cycles, trees, and traversals.

What did you enjoy most about the ACSL Elementary Division?

I enjoyed the Boolean Algebra segment of the test the most and especially the simplification problems. These problems were the closest to algebra you could get in this competition and it stood out to me as it had a lot to do with real algebra, one of my favorite subjects.

So you cracked every single question in each of the 4 tests and then you cracked all the questions in the final. Wow! How did you manage to do that?

It took a lot of practice and patience (especially because this was my first year participating in the ACSL competitions) as some of the topics were quite difficult and challenging. I knew about number systems from my regular Math classes so that wasn’t difficult. The infix-prefix-postfix questions were also straightforward; you just had to be patient and work them out carefully. The last two contests, Boolean Algebra and Graph Theory were the most interesting topics. At one point they had me clueless. Now, though, Boolean Algebra is my favorite topic!

Can you show some examples of the problems you worked on and how you mastered them?

Below is an example of a problem in number systems where we are asked to do subtraction in hexadecimal (i.e., DEAD minus ABE). One technique I have found that works for me is replace the characters with ther place value and try to do the addition or subtraction in those terms. When I have to borrow or carry-over we should remember that place values are powers of 16 instead of 10. After doing the subtraction I add back to verify my answer.
Here below is a problem where we are asked to convert a postfix expression to prefix. These questions required some practice and careful organization.
For the boolean algebra problems you need to know some of the rules for simplifying expressions. This is not very different from simplifying algebra expressions in Math.
The graph theory problems can be complex! In the below graph we are asked to count the number of cycles. The below graph has three loops: involving the vertices (A,B,D,E,A), (A,B,D,C,F,A), and (A,E,D,C,F,A). Each loop can be traversed in two directions, so there are a total of 6 cycles.

Of the four topics in the ACSL Elementary which required the most time to master?

I think Graph Theory took the most time to master. It was definitely the most challenging contest for me and I only mastered the cycles portion of it a couple of days before the contest.

How did Kodeclik's ACSL Elementary Program training help you?

Kodeclick’s ACSL program was very helpful. The practice problems were very useful and were exactly the type of problems I encountered in the real test, even the finals. They also had real world applications (especially Graph Theory). I think Kodeclik’s material helped me tremendously to master every one of the topics.

What are some suggestions you can give to ACSL aspirants?

I think you should know your weakness going into the contest so that you can allot more time to it compared to other problems. Going into the Graph Theory test I knew there was always going to be a cycle problem (my weakness) and in the end I gave myself plenty of time to complete those questions.

What is next for you? Now that you have aced the ACSL Elementary what are you going to do next?

Next, I will be going to the classroom or junior divisions of ACSL. While the classroom division is the next step after elementary, only when you get to the junior division do you solve coding challenges so I might be jumping up a level.

What is one piece of trivia about you?

My favorite sport is cricket and I love reading Harry Potter and the Land of Stories.
(Learn more about the contests and rules in our blog post about the American Computer Science League - ACSL.)

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