The Wylie Computer Science Team of Josh Kearney, Wyatt Witemeyer, Tyler Roberts and Ian Sokolnick won the UIL State Championship in May, the first-ever for Wylie High School in Computer Science.
“We always thought it would be so cool to win state, but it was just out there,” Josh said. “To do it was super awesome.”
Josh, a senior, has been on the team since he was a freshman and has helped the team get to state for four consecutive years. The team won 3rd place two of those trips but had never finished 1st until this year.
“Last year, we got to state, but we didn’t place,” Josh said. “It was a wake up call for us. This year, we had the goal of going to state but trying to win. At regionals, we got the 2nd highest score in the state. That really motivated us. That showed us we had a chance.”
The UIL Computer Science competition has two parts – a 40-question written test and a hands-on programming test. Each of the team members competes individually on the written test, and the top three scores are applied to the team total. Then three of the four members work together in the hands-on portion to try to solve 12 programming problems in two hours.
Awards are given to the top individuals as well as to the top team. Wyatt finished 2nd in the individual portion, earning a silver medal. Josh also finished in the top 10, coming in 8th individually.
“I enjoy that aspect of it, but I did not expect to do as well as 2nd place,” Wyatt said. “I was very excited.”
The judges at the state competition will likely remember the Wylie students for more than just their state championship. Josh went to them after the written portion and challenged one of the questions. After an almost hour delay, the judges threw the question out.
“I proved to them that I could write code to break the problem,” Josh said. “It was just a bad question.”
“They had no choice to but to throw it out,” Wyatt said. “It was just kind of fun having Josh prove to them that it was a bad question.”
After the delay by the judges, the students started the programming portion of the test, which is the best part of the competition, Ian said.
“It’s a lot more fun than the written,” Ian said. “There’s communication between your teammates. You work out the problems together.”
Wyatt said programming 12 problems in two hours is challenging.
“It sounds like a long time, but boy does it go by fast,” Wyatt said.
Josh said each of the team members have different strengths that allows them to work well as a team.
“We can each do what we are best at,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Together the Wylie team finished 11 of the 12 questions in the hands-on portion.
“After the written, we were in 3rd place,” Tyler said. “In hands-on, we came back and blew them away. We would have gotten all 12 if we had five more minutes.”
Wyatt said the group saved their best performance for state.
“That was the best we had ever done,” he said. “We were happy with how we performed.”
They were even happier when they found out the programming score moved them into 1st place and earned them the gold medal.
“It was a very good feeling,” Wyatt said. “We were having a great day.”
Wyatt, Josh and Ian are all seniors, meaning Tyler, a junior, will be starting over with a new team next year. Josh will be going to Rice University and majoring in computer science and physics. Wyatt will be attending ACU to major in computer science and math. Ian will be majoring in math, and possibly computer science, at Angelo State next year. Josh also competed in Math and Science at state, and Ian also competed in Number Sense.
The team members said they were especially grateful to Deana Evenden, Wylie High School’s UIL sponsor.
“Mrs. Evenden has been there for us for four years,” Josh said. “She has been one of the best teachers. I think she was the most excited off all of us.”
“She’s awesome,” Tyler agreed. “She does everything for us.”