[BIO98 Logo] The British Informatics Olympiad
Sponsored by Data Connection.
[Data Connection logo]

Press release
11 September 1998
For immediate publication
BIO'98 - the national computing competition for schools

British Team Win Trio of Medals


One medal for gold and two for bronze have just been won by some of our brightest computing students. After spending the week in Portugal, representing Great Britain at the prestigious International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI), three of the team of four came back with medals. This is Britain's best performance yet.

Chosen from around 950 entrants from 150 schools and colleges who entered the British Informatics Olympiad, the team faced students from 65 other countries competing for medals in computing excellence. Their trip was paid for by sponsorship from Data Connection, a world-leading UK software development company.

Contents of this press release

Briefing - Contact details - Photographs - Internet resources - The British Informatics Olympiad - Organisation and aims - Participant profiles


The four talented students spent this week in Portugal representing Britain at the 10th International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI). Starting on 5 September, the IOI consisted of two tough days during which the contestants produced computer programs to solve difficult problems under strict time pressure. Once the hard work of the competition was over, the team spent time visiting places of cultural interest (including Expo'98). They also enjoyed the excellent weather on the beach at the attractive Portugese resort of Troia where the IOI was held.

The team's results were:

The IOI awarded about 20 gold, 40 silver and 60 bronze medals to the top contestants. Teams are usually picked in national competitions - in this case, the British Informatics Olympiad.

All aged 18, the team beat off tough competition from around 950 students to be selected for the national squad. In the first round of the BIO they faced tasks including modelling the flight of the Tamworth Two, creating Roman numerals and programming a computer to solve mathematical problems called Cryptarithms (such as "SEND+MORE=MONEY"). In the Final their capabilities were really stretched with written problems on searching for the differences between texts and how to assess BIO problems, and programming tasks including dominoes, cutting pieces from a pattern, and finding a way round a railway network. Even the very best found it hard to solve all the problems in the limited time available.

The team was announced at the final on 5 April, which was held at Christ's College, Cambridge. Colin Dancer, a director of Data Connection, awarded the prizes. He said, "Data Connection is proud to sponsor BIO'98. As one of the UK's most successful software development companies, we base our success on recruiting exceptionally talented people and training them to become world-class software developers, managers and marketeers. BIO'98 has succeeded in attracting some of the country's brightest and best young computing students. The IOI team is a formidable collection of talent - exactly the sort of people we recruit as both pre-university and full-time employees."

Further information

More information on the BIO may be obtained from:

Frances Sloan
Skill IT Project Manager
IT NTO, 16 Berners Street, London W1P 3DD
Phone: 01223 414415
Fax: 01223 414416
E-mail: (see contact details from home page)
Becky Lloyd
Data Connection Limited
100 Church Street, Enfield EN2 6BQ
Phone: 0181 366 1177
Fax: 0181 363 2927
E-mail: http://www.dataconnection.com/

During the International Olympiad in Informatics the team was accompanied by the BIO technical director, Richard Forster, who can be contacted at (see contact details from home page) for details and comments on the team's performance.


Copyright-free photographs of the team and finalists are available from Frances Sloan.

Internet resources

The BIO publishes a large amount of information on the Internet. For details of the BIO and related material, take a look at the BIO Index. Up-to-date details on the IOI can be found on the 1998 IOI Website and the IOI Secretariat

If you are publishing a link to the BIO website, please use the location http://www.christs.cam.ac.uk/bio/ - please note that this is case sensitive.


Background Information

The British Informatics Olympiad

The British Informatics Olympiad (BIO) is an annual competition in computer programming for secondary schools and sixth form colleges. Any student who is under 19, in full time pre-university education and resident in mainland Britain, is eligible to take part and may win the prize of an expenses-paid trip to the prestigious International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI).

The first stage of the BIO is a three-hour exam, taken at school, in which students solve problems with the aid of a computer. These are marked by a teacher and submitted for moderation. Based on the results of this exam, the top 12-15 competitors are invited to the BIO final at Christ's College, Cambridge, in the Easter holidays. The best four make up the team to represent Britain at the IOI.

Organisation and aims

The BIO is a non-profit making organisation founded in 1995, aiming to encourage students to take an active interest in information technology, to allow them to meet and exchange ideas, and to give the best the chance to compete at the annual International Olympiad in Informatics.

In order to make the BIO as inclusive as possible, it is free to enter. This can only be achieved thanks to the aid of commercial sponsorship. BIO'98 is sponsored by Data Connection, one of the UK's most successful software development companies. Founded in 1981, Data Connection now has 170 employees. The company's outstanding success has been driven by a total commitment to quality and a high level of business generated overseas. Data Connection recruit world-class graduates, and offer pre-university work and vacation work to exceptional students.

Participant profile - James Lingard

Age 18

Saffron Walden

Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge

A-levels: Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Geology, General Studies (all A)
STEP: Maths 2 & 3 (S)

About to start at Cambridge (Robinson College) for Maths/Computer Science

Music is one of my main interests - modern and classical. I play the saxophone and piano, and have recently been playing the sax with the Cambridge Youth Concert Band. I enjoy the outdoors, especially walking. I went to Greenland for six weeks last summer (archaeology, conservation, mountaineering) with the BSES, and hope to do something like this again in the future. I play a little badminton and football.

Did you enjoy the BIO?
Yes! I didn't expect to do as well as I did.

Would you recommend others to take part, and why?
Definitely. It's not the kind of thing you'd have a chance to do otherwise, and it's a great opportunity to meet other people with similar interests. It was also very interesting to take part.

Summer placement
Who with? Data Connection

What have you been doing?
I've been writing and testing code. The area is sharing applications over the Internet for on-line conferences. My work has been on a Java applet which provides the front end for running programs on other computers.

What skills have you used, and learnt?
I have learnt Java - I now know this fairly well, which will be useful at University. Teamwork has been important as the project involves about half a dozen people. This is the first time I have been programming in a commercial environment, which is so different from at home.

What are your impressions of the company?
Professional but friendly and laid back. I am seriously considering working with them again - they have offered me University sponsorship.

Would you recommend summer placements to others?
Yes, after talking to friends and seeing what they've done, the people who have worked have "done something" and I've really had a worthwhile placement. Data Connection is a good place to work: you feel like one of the team. I enjoyed having proper and valuable work - it's nice to know that I've contributed to something that will actually be used in the real world.

What do you think you might do after University?
I plan to work in software development, and have been thinking this way for a while, and would certainly consider Data Connection.

Participant profile - Luke Halliwell

Age 18

St Andrews

Madras College, St Andrews

Subjects taken at Sixth Year Studies (Scottish system)
3 Maths certificates (general, pure, mechanical), Physics - all A grades

Cambridge (Trinity College) for Maths, starting in October 1998.

In July 1998 I was a member of the British team at the International Maths Olympiad in Taiwan. I got a bronze medal and had a great time. I play basketball and rugby quite seriously (at county level) and am hoping to continue this at University. I also play the electric guitar - I was in a band at school, and we played in a few concerts. I like listening to music, and hope to start travelling over the summer vacations when I'm at University, perhaps back to Taiwan.

How did you find the BIO?
I did this in a mad rush. The first round seemed quite easy - I hadn't done any C programming for 6 years and brushed up the week before. The final was really tough - a scramble for time. I was amazed to get through to the team, given that I felt I was inexperienced.

Would you recommend others to take part, and why?
Yes, definitely - it's worth giving it a go as you can't lose anything. Personally, I love competitions. It was interesting writing programs and solving problems under time pressure. The problems were a different style from what I'd been used to, and I'd never really written programs like these before.

Summer placement
Who with? Data Connection

What have you been doing?
I've been working on the system Data Connection use to document their code. This translates the user documentation for the product into the various on-line versions required for different customers. My work was to produce programs to do this conversion. This involved writing C programs (as well as a bit of Unix shell scripting), and I had to learn the Web technologies SGML and HTML from scratch, as well as more general Internet skills including Javascript.

What skills did you need?
In addition to those mentioned above, I needed lots of patience when dealing with the differences and incompatibilities between Internet browsers.

I also learnt a great deal about the commercial environment, and testing programs to make them more robust that I would have done for personal code.

What are your impressions of the company?
I found it to be a friendly company and a very nice place to work, with lots going on outside work (sport and social). Living in a company house with other students meant there was plenty going on. I don't think I could have enjoyed it more - and it was nice to be given real work; I think I've done something useful and can see it in action.

Would you recommend summer placements to others?
I'm really glad that I spent the time at Data Connection, particularly this year before University when I wouldn't otherwise have been doing anything worthwhile. The money's useful, it's a fun way to spend a summer, and it's excellent experience to have for the future. It's a good way to have a look at a career to find out what it's like.

What do you think you might do after University?
I really don't have strong feelings about this at the moment as both academia and industry are possible options. I'd be happy to work somewhere like Data Connection - I'll see when I near the end of the course at University.

Luke has now accepted University sponsorship from Data Connection.

The British Informatics Olympiad