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Code Off 2014 was our biggest yet. Apparently the lure of pizza, code and the opportunity to win a Summer Internship at the Snowflake offices had filtered through the ECS department at the University of Southampton and had earnt us a reputation for running a pretty good coding competition. Twenty keen students turned out early on a sunny Saturday morning to attempt our latest coding challenge.

Hunting for Bugs

This year’s task was a GML data treasure hunt, no less with our infamous Treasure Island data used in our GML training course. Our crafty devs had introduced a bunch of errors in the data files for our students to uncover. Their task this year was to develop an application which could detect errors in the Treasure Island data file and display the errors to the user.

With 23 different types of error in the data files we didn’t make this a cake walk. Some of errors related to the format of the data whilst others related to the data being meaningless or contradictory. We gave some specific rules covering some of these to get the students started but finding the rest would depend on their ability to interpret the data and decide where it was wrong.

Code and Repeat

Finding a finalist

Our top three finalists out of all the entrants were Jamie Davies, Graham Esau and Nick Tinsley. But it was Nick, a 3rd year student at ECS, who just pipped the rest to the winners post and will be joining the Snowflake team this Summer as an intern in our Development department.

Nick’s approach to our troublesome challenge was to be methodical……

“I first considered how best to manage the various errors that would be detected, and thought about the different attributes that it would need to hold – like error description, source line number and severity.

I then tried to break each of the errors that needed to be detected into a ‘rule module’. The idea was to avoid one very large method that tried to do everything. There was a lot to get done, but I just managed to implement most of the rules in the time. The hard part turned out be hunting down a bug in the UI, but luckily I had something up by the time the judges came over!”

Code Off Finalists

Nick, Jamie and Graham – our Code Off finalists!

“We were very impressed with Nick’s tenacity and the structured approach he took to completing the task” explains Eddie Curtis, CTO at Snowflake. “It was no easy feat this year, and no one found all the errors in the data. But we were really impressed with everyone who took part and stuck with the challenge.”

“The code off was great fun – it was great to be able to demonstrate something practical, and in a a way a bit more relaxed than an interview. I definitely didn’t expect anything when I entered – I just thought that it would be a good chance to try and get a bit of experience coding to a task and under pressure – I couldn’t believe it when they announced I won!

I’m really looking forward to starting at Snowflake and taking on more creative problems like these.” remarked Nick on winning the competition.