Feb 10

It’s almost like trying to find buried treasure.  You get to use screen shots and directions, guiding you along; telling you what you need to do.  This is when you’re kicking the tires to find out what this thing is all about, if you’re going to like it, if you want to move forward… It’s kind of like “come in, sit down, look around, and if you like it, stick around”… Then, suddenly, you find yourself getting comfortable, no actually having fun, you’re actually messing around with a mainframe.  The concepts are making sense so you want to move on.  You find yourself well into Part 1 realizing you’re enjoying yourself…..

Now your moving forward to Part 2.  Things are a bit more difficult.  However, you can start to rely on the knowledge you picked up in Part 1.

Wait a minute.  Just a short time ago you were completely new to this thing called the mainframe.  Now you are performing system programming tasks on your own; issuing commands, navigating the system, and setting up system security.  You’re starting to do a little application development using C and JAVA; maybe even some REXX.  But wait, you are also coding in… what this.. COBOL and Assembler.

You feel confident with your new found skills.  You are definitely ready to take on Part 3.

When you start Part 3, you realize that this is far more challenging that Part 1 or Part 2Part 3 is going to take some time to complete; it’s going to take all of the skills you picked up in Part 1 and Part 2 for you to be successful. You are now solving real-life situations.  It will take real drive and determination for you to make it through Part 3.  But you will…

I’ve just tried to describe what a college or high school student, someone growing up in a time when home computers and portable phones that are as powerful as computers are the norm, might go through in order to win a contest.  A contest that’s all about…

Now wait for it…

The Mainframe

This is IBM’s Master the Mainframe (MtM) Contest for 2010, now in its sixth year.

You’re reading that correctly.  3,537 college/university and high school students representing over 400 schools across the US and Canada, just spent the last three months (approximately) doing research, working with TSO, VSAM, DB2 and a whole bunch of other stuff you only hear about in a conversation about the mainframe.   These students represent the next possible generation of mainframe professionals.

From the MtM web site….

“…to win Part 3, students had to complete a series of extremely difficult and time-consuming tasks, mastering the inner-workings of mainframe software products, security protocols, multiple programming languages and various utilities. Students had three months to explore the system and complete the contest tasks, with many contestants opting to complete the challenges using Rational Developer for System z”

Of course, there is a small incentive for completing all three parts.  The five top finishers, those 5 students who most accurately complete all of the assigned task, receive an Apply iPad; with the top three winners also receiving a two-day all expense paid trip to Poughkeepsie NY, the home of the IBM Mainframe.

The top five winners were:

1st place: Patricio Reynaga, West Texas A&M University
2nd place: Jay Thomas, Pace University
3rd place: Calvin MacKenzie, Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts
4th place: Philip Yeo, Dalhousie University
5th place: Sibo Niu, Syracuse University

Now I mapped out three parts in the above scenario for a reason.  The contest consist of three distinct parts, each part with its own set of challenges.   Everyone who participates, depending on how many parts the complete and how well they complete each part, receives something for their efforts.

I just explained what the top three and top five winners receive.  In addition to the top 5 winners, some students did an exceptional job that deserves recognition.  Those students received a certificate from IBM to commemorate their achievement.  There is a complete list of all the students receiving honorable mention at:

2010 IBM Master the Mainframe Contest Wall of Fame

The first 60 students to complete all challenges in Part 2 100% correct, receive a $100 pre-paid debit card.

Everyone completing all challenges in Part 2 100% correct are invited to upload their resumes into the Student Opportunity System database.

The first 1,100 students to complete Part 1 with 100% correct receive an exclusive custom designed Master the Mainframe T-shirt.  With the front displaying a rendering of a zEnterprise system, the back list the hometowns of the 50 schools with the most eligible registered students.

T-shirt front

T-shirt back

All of the details about the Master the Mainframe contest can be found at its web site:

Master the Mainframe Contest 2010

All of the students who participated in this contest need a huge congratulations.   For most of them, it was their very  first exposure to the mainframe.  These students are our future.

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