A subject that pays off for 3 students at the Zug Cantonal School

Photo: Cyrill von Flüe , Thibault Cangemi and Ryan Zhiang Chen (from left to right) know their computer science.

21,000 students from Switzerland and 340,000 students worldwide took part in this year’s online competition, the ‘Informatik Biber’ (computer science beaver), with three students from the Zug Cantonal School achieving first place in their categories: Cyrill von Flüe from the class 6H, and Ryan Zhiang Chen and Thibault Cangemi from the class 4B.

Only eight other Swiss pupils achieved this in Cyrill's age category, while Thibault and Ryan have to share the first place with 31 others. "The prizes have not yet arrived, however," admits Mohamed Kubba-von Jüchen, who is responsible for computer science.

"The ‘Informatik Biber’ is not an exam, but you have to work seriously," says Thibault. "It's a competition under supervision," adds Mohamed Kubba. The online quiz does not count for the annual promotion. "It takes 40 minutes, we simply did it in one lesson," recalls Thibault. You hardly need any previous knowledge to solve the multiple-choice tasks of the ‘Informatik Biber’. "You need analytical thinking, the same as for programming,” says Thibault. "It’s actually just like programming, without using the language," adds Cyrill.

Computer science teaching at the Zug Cantonal School far exceeds the dimensions of the ‘Informatik Biber’, however, with all classes studying computer science. Ryan mentions an entry-level program called Scratch: "We start with this program. It's visual, and familiarises us with the basic concepts of computer science." All students learn to use the Python programming language later. The complementary subject of ‘Computer Science’ can be chosen in the sixth grade, and involves five hours a week. "The syllabus actually overlaps with what they learn in the first year of study. You also learn to program with Java, "says Mohamed Kubba.

Cyrill chose the computer science specialisation because “the supplementary subject should be something you really find interesting”. His school-leaving dissertation is also in the field of computer science. Using Python, he tries to simulate the driving behaviour of two cars: "The model works very well. I originally wanted to simulate how a car behaves in a roundabout or at a traffic light, but that is still too difficult to program. Maybe I can continue the project at university, "says Cyrill with a smile.

"10 to 15 school-leaving dissertations are in computer science every year, and most of them are programmed with Python”, says Kubba. Although computer science education is becoming more and more important, 90 percent of all secondary schools still provide hardly any teaching in it," adds Kubba. Computer science will be introduced as a promotion subject throughout Switzerland from the school year 2020/21.

Cyrill doesn’t know exactly what he wants to study after graduation, but he knows where: he wants to go to ETH. Ryan and Thibault have more time to decide. Nevertheless, Ryan knows that he would like to study architecture or perhaps computer science. Thibault also tends towards the ETH, but has not yet committed to a study course. Computer science is definitely a tempting option for all of them.