It’s early morning on a Saturday at Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Houston campus, and more than 700 teens — some in wizard hats and Viking horns — take their places for the countdown. Across three large, open rooms where employees typically dine and socialize, the groups of two or three have fired up their computers, flipped through dog-eared Java programming books, and set up snacks, sodas and good luck charms at their stations. They’re excited, a little bit nervous and ready to compete.
The high schoolers have prepared for months for this day. Today, it’s the 22nd annual CodeWars, a high school computer programming competition designed to spark interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). “The goal is to encourage more students to pursue a STEM-based career,” says Scott Harsany, senior director of software, firmware and R&D at HPE, and the founder and organizer of CodeWars. “We want students to see what a technology company looks like and interact with engineers in an environment that’s fun, free and challenging.”
The teens get the signal, then flip open their packet of 30 program challenges crafted by engineers from HP and HPE. Across three rooms and dozens of tables, fingers fly across keyboards as they work together to solve problems. They compete for trophies and bragging rights. Later, they’ll also compete in the annual CodeWars costume contest.