Cyprus Mail

A treasure hunt that teaches you to code

Participants are divided into groups before entering a computer driven treasure hunt

Would you like to improve your critical thinking skills? To earn a lot of money? Or learn a fourth fundamental skill alongside reading, writing and arithmetic?

Code Cyprus is an event that may well be the first step on that journey. It is a half day event designed to engage and enthuse its participants, 150 high school pupils.

“It is more of a festival than a workshop,” explained Nearchos Paspallis, assistant professor of computing at UCLan Cyprus and organiser of the event. And indeed, apart from a treasure hunt where participants can win prizes worth more than €1000, there is also a complimentary lunch and even a DJ.

After a welcome speech at UCLan Cyprus, where the event takes place on March 5 this year, parallel workshops are held. The participants are split in four teams according to their abilities and preferences.

Those who don’t know much about computing can choose an introductory group where the very basics of programming are the topic. A second group is for those who care more for coding and computer games, a third is about robotics, and coding is applied to make a robot do something, and a fourth is on more advanced databases.

The whole event is geared to encourage teamwork, and having lunch together is the next part. The treasure hunt which is arguably the most fun follows. The event is sponsored by CyTA who offer the first six winners coupons for €200 each for any device purchased from Cytashops.

The clues are traditional, but the whole process is gamified.

It involves android technology. Most participants bring their own phones and tablets, but some devices are also available at the venue. Usually, the teenagers work in teams of two.

After downloading an app, they all start to look for clues at the same time and have 30 minutes to finish. During this time, a large screen in the lobby provides real-time status of the game, displaying where everybody is and what their score is at all times.

The clues involve questions the students can answer on the spot and other puzzles which require them to move around to find the answers. Likely questions are about computing, such as “Which of the following technologies was invented first? The Web, Email, Facebook or Gmail?” Or “What is the most important computing award?” All in all, there are 15-20 questions to answer within the set time.

High school students aged 12 to 18 are targeted, but the most interest is shown by 14 to 15 years old, Paspallis said.

This is the third year the competition taking place, and 150 students are registered, while another 40 are on the waiting list. Though in the first year paid ads on facebook were used, by this year the event had become so popular that none were needed.

“I went with some friends last year,” Theodoros Constantinides, 19, told the Sunday Mail. “It was a great experience. The workshops were very interesting and the treasure hunt with the riddles you had to solve was exiting. We had fun and we gained some knowledge, too.”

Code Cyprus was conceptualised in 2014, after a small team of academics received a grant by Fulbright, as this was deemed a project that benefits the island as a whole. Some Turkish Cypriots are expected to take part this year.

Apart from being fun, how might this be the first step to becoming rich? Needless to say, many people have made a lot of money in the software business. After all, the world’s richest person is currently Bill Gates.

However, this is not the main reason for learning to code. The true value comes with the computational thinking it entails.

“When you learn to code, it opens up for you many other things,” explains Mitchell Resnick, professor at MIT. “It teaches you many core principles of design. About how to experiment with new ideas, how to take complex ideas and break them down into smaller parts, how to collaborate with other people….Now these are important skills that aren’t just relevant for coding. They are relevant for all sorts of different activities.”


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