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Students score high in mainframe contest

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Among the eight Mercyhurst University students who competed against 5,601 college and high school students in the 9th annual Master the Mainframe Contest hosted by IBM Corporation, three Lakers were among the 438 semi-finalists who successfully completed round two of the three-tier competition.

Juan Ignacio Andrade, Ronnie Cook and Juan Quevedo outsmarted thousands of contestants from the United States and Canada in this hands-on competition to place in the top 8 percent.

Aaron Williams, Bereket Temtime, Zachary Dorsch, Daniel Pietrasiewicz and Barbara Kish also competed in the competition, passing round one. This is the first year that Mercyhurst students competed in the contest.

"We are very proud of our students' success in the contest,” said Chad Redmond, Ph.D., professor of mathematics at Mercyhurst. “It's a testament to their dedication. We hope for similar success in future years."

Each year, IBM invites college and high school students to gain hands-on experience with mainframes — powerful computers designed to manage high volumes of information that also provide security, data protection and operational efficiency — by challenging them to complete several tasks, including varying degrees of programming. The competition is completed remotely online.

The three levels include:

  1. Breaking the Ice: An introduction to basic mainframe concepts and a guide to navigating the mainframe user interface.
  2. Practical Experience: Contestants are required to complete more extensive system programing, including system setup, advanced commands and application development tasks all while using multiple operating systems.
  3. Real-World Challenge: This final tier requires extensive work from contestants over several months. Challenges are based on real-life situations encountered by experienced IBM systems programmers. Only 42 contestants correctly completed this round, with five taking the top spots.

According to IBM’s website, more employers are relying on mainframe technology, which makes it essential for the next generation of enterprise computing professionals to understand this advancing technology. The website also notes that this contest gives students “basic skills to make them more competitive” in the job market.

This spring, 22 Mercyhurst students have a separate opportunity to work with mainframes, thanks to Erie Insurance, Redmond said. Erie Insurance is hosting a lecture-based course on mainframe computing taught by its own IT professionals. Adjunct professor Brian Camodeca will handle evaluation, grading and supplemental lessons for Lakers.

PHOTO: Mercyhurst students, kneeling from left: Bereket Temtime and Juan Quevedo. Second row from left: Zachary Dorsch, Barbara Kish, Daniel Pietrasiewicz, Aaron Williams and Susan Fassette of Erie Insurance. Back row: Juan Ignacio Andrade (other individual not identified.) Ronnie Cook is not pictured.