Code Wars 2010, Delhi Public School Vasant Kunj‘s computer symposium, was held on 26-27 August 2010. Boy, and what an eventful two days it has been. There is so much that I want to say that I don’t know where to begin. I’ll walk down the memory lane as to how I got into tech quizzing, but that’ll come later in the post and you can skip it if you aren’t interested. (Or maybe if that’s the thing you want to read, skip onwards.)
Let me begin by saying what a pleasure it has been to work with the current Code Warriors team, headed by Anirudh Jain, VS Karthick, Aditya Kumar, and Pulkit Kaushik – and let’s face it, even though he doesn’t officially hold a position in the club, DPS Vasant Kunj’s newly appointed Head Boy Vivek Nair. It has been a pleasure helping out the team conduct Code Wars 2010 with my fellow alumni Abhimanyu Bhardwaj, Arjun Attam, Rachit Agarwal, and Waris Jain. Above all, I wouldn’t be talking about this if it weren’t for each and every one of the 475 participants and 30 schools that participated in Code Wars 2010; your vote for our event by turning up in large numbers is – even when there were clashing events at other schools – is what makes Code Wars special every year.
The Code Wars 2010 video was Rachit Agarwal’s brainchild. There was a lot more planned for the video – which will explain the ‘odd’ Star Wars opening title – so maybe one day CW will be able to release an uncut version of the video. ;)
For my part, I helped the current team with the junior quiz, senior quiz, crossword (only to a minor extent), N-Crypton (giving inputs in the final stages of paper-setting); judging the group discussion, video editing, and audio editing events. The standard of the participants was, on the whole, exceptional. I’m making available the complete archives here for the events I was involved in. I welcome feedback from the participants of events I was involved in.
- Senior Quiz – Prelim, Final (PDF version)
- Junior Quiz – Prelim, Final (note: to play the embedded videos, you need to have system-wide codecs installed. May I suggest K-Lite?)
- Crossword – Prelim (solution), Final
On my part, I apologise to the participants who ended up on the wrong side of my temper. I turned up on both days with about an hour of sleep as I was involved in making event material; still, I could’ve been better. If you’re reading this, my sincerest apologies. There were also a few kerfuffles that were unfortunate and avoidable (just to be clear, since there were so many points of view as to what happened, I backed whatever DPS Vasant Kunj volunteers told me; I have to, they’re my team), which soured up moods – but I hope at the end of the day, everyone who participated had fun and walked away learning something.
Congratulations to the Exunites from Delhi Public School (RK Puram) for winning the overall trophy, to eSpice from Delhi Public School (Noida) for winning the overall runners-up trophy (and for giving stiff competition to RKP), and to each and every participant with a podium finish. Commiserations to those who didn’t win a prize, but I hope you walk away with good memories of our event. :)
I had a long chat with Vivek Nair today about the future of the Code Warriors, and it got me thinking about how I started off in tech quizzing. I don’t know whether there is anything worth learning from my experience, but the chat that I had made me feeling like writing it all out anyway.
I find it amusing that many people who I meet think I have been at DPS Vasant Kunj “forever”. No, I joined the school in class 11th. I had a string of achievements to my name at the time – national winner of the CBSE Intel Science Quiz (it was conducted simultaneously with the CBSE Heritage India Quiz, by Pickbrain; thus, I missed out on HIQ stage rounds that year), and long long ago in a galaxy far far away, the Delhi round winner of Cadbury Bournvita Quiz Contest – but I think it would be safe to say I wasn’t ‘known’ at the time I joined DPS VK.
I was mostly into general quizzing and debates in those days; my first quiz ever was in class 5th, as a junior participant prelims of the Discovery Channel India Quiz conducted by Derek O’Brien. I had watched the Bournvita Quiz Contest on television of course – who wouldn’t have, if they grew up in the late 90s in India – and I still remember how utterly excited and mesmerised I was to attend a live quiz by O’Brien. If I had to choose a tipping point that got me into quizzing, that would be it.
At the time of my admission interview to DPS VK, the (former) Vice Principal Mrs Rachna Pandit asked me about the things I had written about in my extra-curricular activities. During that conversation, I expressed my surprise at one point to the panel that DPS Vasant Kunj did not have a quiz club at the time. Long story short, I got in to DPS VK, and Rachna Pandit ma’am was the English teacher in the section I was assigned to. She remembered me from the interview, and on the first day asked me to come up with a plan to form a quiz club. That eventually led to the formation of DPS VK Quiz Club – a story I can talk about some other day.
When I found out that I got through, I got in touch with Anshul Agrawal (who was on-track to become the president of Code Warriors that year) through Abhishek Nandakumar of Mount St Mary’s School. (And I got acquainted to Abhishek through Siddharth Razdan, who was the president of Ramjas School, RK Puram’s computer club Dynamix.) Anshul and I conversed before I joined school on Orkut (there was no Facebook then), and I expressed an interest in joining the club. I had never formally participated in tech symposium since my previous school had no computer club (and no quiz club either, until I started it. It saddens me that the quiz club withered out soon after I left my previous school.).
To be honest, I turned up for Code Wars Intra without any preparation – simply because I did not know what to expect as I’d never been to any tech quiz. I distinctly recollect shrinking a few centimetres further into my seat when Abhimanyu barged into the hall where we were writing quiz intra papers and menacingly (so it seemed to me, at the time) loomed over every participant’s shoulder. Turns out I did well in the paper, and was asked to team up with Prannoy ‘Pony’ Sablok. He was Code Warriors’ quiz and hardware guy at the time, and he got me started on going through previous inter-school tech quiz archives.
The first quiz that Pony and I went to was Matrix-EcommBuzz 2006 at Abhishek Nandakumar’s school. This wasn’t purely a tech quiz – it was a mashup of tech and business quizzing (so we had a third team member from a commerce section of our school). I ended up answering mostly the business questions, but our team’s performance overall was less than satisfactory and we didn’t qualify for the finals.
Our next quiz as a team was at MINET 2006, where Pony and I did qualify in the quiz and crossword finals, but tanked big time. I remember that we ended up with the second last position in both (?) events; our team had just five points in the quiz – from a question I answered about open source software (my forte). (The question was about identifying the Open Source Initiative logo.) Anshul was rightfully furious and asked us to get our act together by the next event. MINET 2006 was also the first time I participated in a tech symposium group discussion – not as an official participant, but as an unofficial entry on the request of our actual group discussion participant Raj Luthra as the topic was ‘Open Source: Boon or Bane’ (or something like that), and Raj knew I was interested in open source software.
Our next opportunity came at Modem 2006 and Exun 2006 – held on dates that were clashing. As team which had its ass handed in a sling, our priority during these two clashing events was clear – win Modem, for Exun was “surely” out of our reach. And exactly the opposite happened – overall (the whole Code Warriors team), we didn’t do well at Modem but won at Exun. At Exun 2006, Pony and I won the crossword, came runners-up in the senior quiz. Our strategy of dividing specialisations – Pony handling ‘tech’ question, and me handling ‘trivia’ questions – worked. Exun 2006 was also the first ever tech symposium where I got podium finishes in quiz/crossword.
That, folks, is how I got into tech quizzing. The rest of my journey is fairly well-documented on my blog.
I wouldn’t have reached this far if Rachna Pandit ma’am and Anshul Agrawal hadn’t placed their faith in me. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the guidance that seniors such as Prannoy, Raj, and Anshul provided.
I mentioned earlier how amusing I found the notion that people think I’ve been around at DPS VK “for a long time”. So much so that at Access 2006 – the first time ever that I went for the event – their computer science HoD commented on seeing me there, “Arre! Tu toh itne salo se yahan aye hi ja raha hai!” I chuckled then, as I do now, when I hear such statements.
Update: To clarify, I don’t mean this in a negative light. I look up to their HoD as one of the truly exceptional ones among Delhi schools. As with him, I merely mentioned this as a light-hearted ‘aside’ in this discussion.
The Code Warriors have recently embarked on a programme to nurture talent systematically starting from junior classes onwards – an ambitious plan put into effect by Vivek Nair because he understands that that is the age when a kid develops his interest in extra-curricular activities. Though I’ve ribbed him good-naturedly on his initial mission plan to start recruiting kids from “nursery onwards”, I realise the value of and strongly support a long-term plan to develop talent. Time and again we have seen how this works wonders à la what Prateek Vijayavargia has accomplished at New Era Public School. Vivek (and Karthick) get the importance of this as they have been Code Warriors since class 6th.
In the short-term though, I feel that DPS Vasant Kunj clubs do a rotten job of utilizing the influx of talent in form of the 300-odd students who join the school every year in class 11th. These are academically bright students who more often-than-not have represented their previous schools in extra-curricular events. They are mature, they have experience, they have the interest. You don’t need to put in as much effort in training them as compared to junior school kids, but you’ve to spend a significant amount of effort in getting them interested.
Naturally, these ‘new students’ feel intimidated to venture out and join clubs that are ‘original Dipsite’ bastions. Intras often take place within 1-2 weeks of session commencing, a period when the ‘new students’ are just about coming to grips calling DPS VK “my school” and making new friends.
None of the clubs make an effort to reach out and speak to them in a personal manner. Simply putting up a poster emphasizing “Anyone who is interested in joining club X, this is when our intra blah blah” is not enough. Every year I see the music, arts, sports, quizzing, computer clubs/societies consisting of a handful of ‘outsiders’ among ‘original Dipsites’.
In the year I joined, I was the only ‘new student’ who enlisted with the Code Warriors; the next, we had other ‘new students’ such as Naman Bagga (who has now gone on to take important positions in computer and associated clubs in his college), Avani Gupta, and Eeshan Chatterjee who got involved through me. At one point of time, Arjun Attam was a guy in Montfort School – with experience in tech symposiums previously – whom I got acquainted with as he was a commenter on my blog. (There was a time when our beloved ‘Lord Vader’, bless him, was a kid looking for advice on whether to join DPS Vasant Kunj or not.) He later joined our school and went on to become the vice-president, then president of the Code Warriors. I don’t know whether it helped him in having someone to speak to, but it sure helped me even with the brief exchanges I had with Anshul to know what I was welcome.
Just to dispel any myths among those who are reading – I’m not saying that ‘original Dipsites’ are biased, or that ‘new students’ are simply not interested in extra-curricular activities. It’s just human nature that we tend to stay within our comfort zone, and we tend to abhor rejection from peers. My advice, to DPS VK clubs (or any school where there’s an influx of students in higher classes), is that you need to step out of your comfort zone of “everyone knows who we are and what we do” and go out of your way in wooing ‘new students’. Maybe then, I/we wouldn’t have to use such labels when speaking about people any more.
I’m not singling out DPS VK – what I’ve mentioned is the case in every school where new students join. My advice to ‘new students’: be bold and approach people, tell them what you’re interested in. And you know what? I’ve never found a single instance so far when clubs haven’t taken you seriously when you show the initiative. My advice to clubs in ‘such’ schools: this is a two-way street; make efforts to be friendly to those who approach you.
This is not to say that encouraging junior school kids and training them is a bad idea. In fact, I’d say it’s extremely vital and important to have such a support framework in place from an early age. However, I’m also pragmatic and believe that the only way to solve the short-term crunch of members until the time juniors are ready can only be solved by the second route. We’ve all seen the meteoric rise of New Era Public School thanks to the years of effort that Prateek Vijayavargia – one of the best (and humble) quizzers Delhi has ever seen) – put in; we all can see how that is paying off now. I wish Vivek all the best with his new initiative too.
One of the reasons I strongly support the ‘open-invite’ system that Code Wars has is because I have first-hand experience of how hard it is for less known schools to get invites. It’s easy to forget this in a school like DPS VK, that gets an invite to every event there is. As the Code Warriors president in my time, I felt bad whenever I had to turn any school’s invite because of schedule clashes. No matter how the standard of an event is, unless schools turn up to show support for their fellow competitors and organizers students in smaller schools will be starved of experience.
I never ‘studied’ quiz archives much for tech quizzes beyond a month or two from when I started. I noticed that most events before my time tended to have questions that were repeated frequently. Where’s the fun in that?! So whenever I make tech quizzes, I make a conscious effort to make brand-new questions. One way that I force myself to do this is publishing archives of whatever I create so that it’s open knowledge. And I hope the participants of events I conduct enjoy it too.