Java Contest Issues
AITP NCC Java Competition Event


Association of Information Technology Professionals
National Collegiate Conference
Annual Java Programming Competition Event

This resource page contains the issues under consideration for the AITP NCC Java competition event computer lab workstation environment.

The annual AITP NCC Java Competition Event computer lab workstation environment must be redefined each year to reflect the latest trends in the Java community. This resource page has been implemented to assist in the selection of contest environmental components by serving as an open forum in which Java contest event staff, student contestants, faculty, and industry can jointly provide feedback on the workstation environment. Comments, feedback, and suggestions may be made here.

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Educational institutions have limited budgets and staff experience which may limit the availability of notebook computers and Java development tools that are available to the student contestants.

Student contestants may not have the technical skills that are required to install and configure more advanced development tools and environment components.

Student contestants may not have the time or opportunity required to learn and master a sufficient level of competence with a complex Java development environment.

The Java Competition Event environment should be fair for all students by avoiding the use of complex or expensive development tools that may not be available to all educational institutions or easily available to the students in the event that their school does not use a particular tool.



The Java Competition Event environment components should be easily obtainable by both educational institutions and students. Costs should be free or subsidized by academic purchase programs whenever possible. Environment components should be available via Internet download.

Student contestants should be able to easily master the basic skills required to productively use Java contest environment components and development tools. The learning curve should require no more than one day, assuming that the student has completed the recommended Java curriculum in preparation for the AITP NCC Java Competition Event.

In the event that a student contestant's educational institution does not use a particular environment component, the student contestant should be able to obtain the component by using the Internet. The component should be easy to install and configure, assuming that the student has completed the recommended Java curriculum in preparation for the AITP NCC Java Competition Event.


Issues Under Consideration

Computer Platform
There has been discussion over having the student contestants provide their own computer in the form of a notebook system or using computers provided by the host educational institution. There have also been discussions with corporate sponsors to provide computers for use in the annual contests. An important issue is making sure that all of the teams have a fair chance at competing in the contest. In the event of a computer malfunction, it is easier to move the team to another computer if the environment is the same. There is also the issue that a computer can be configured with more advanced tools and libraries providing a unique advantage to a particular team. By using a standard computer configuration and environment, all of the teams are equal. For this reason, the Java competition event has made the choice to use computers supplied by the NCC Competition Event.

Intel based PC with floppy drive and CD-ROM

Computer systems are supplied by the NCC Contest Event.
Operating System

Educational institutions teaching Management Information Systems (MIS) curriculums tend to emphasize a Microsoft Windows platform while Computer Science (CS) curriculums tend to emphasize a Unix/Linux platform. Linux is fast becoming the platform of choice with many companies and MIS curriculums will need to begin emphasizing Linux in their curriculum offerings. Currently, few schools teach Linux in their MIS programs, which makes it difficult for students to compete in a Linux environment. The Java Competition Event has chosen to use a Microsoft Windows platform since the student contestants are typically more familiar with it.

Productivity Suites such as MS Office, Sun StarOffice, and WordPerfect Office are essential. The ability to run StarOffice and WordPerfect on Linux platforms is allowing individuals and organizations the opportunity to configure their personal computers with both an operating system and productivity suite for free. This is becoming an important issue in response to Microsoft's cyclic product release process and new volume licensing plans. Additionally, few viri and macroviri infect Linux systems, providing additional security. Needles to say, the Java platform is available for both MS Windows and Linux.

Microsoft Windows NT/2000/XP
Microsoft's latest Windows offering is Windows XP; however, many educational institutions are still using Windows NT and Windows 2000. Microsoft's latest plans for volume licensing are also driving many organizations' interest towards Linux.

The latest versions of Linux are easy to install onto a personal computer (PC) and have a graphical user interface (GUI) that is very close to the Windows look-and-feel. Red Hat Linux in particular is very easy to install and use. There is an emerging trend in many large organizations to increasingly adopt Linux over MS Windows.

Linux Online

Red Hat Linux

Debian GNU Linux


The Java Competition Event always uses a database in each problem statement. A student graduating with a degree in Information Systems (IS) should have a working knowledge of relational databases - including basic SQL syntax. The most important element is that the student contestants know JDBC-ODBC connectivity and basic SQL syntax. If cost is a concern, Sun StarOffice or MySQL are good products that are available for free; however, MySQL does not support referential integrity with respect to foreign keys. In an Object-Oriented paradigm, where objects take care of their data, this is not necessarily a problem. From the perspective of the Java Competition Event, a database that supports JDBC-ODBC connectivity will be used in each contest event. Contest databases will use integer auto-numbering primary keys. All of the Java Competition Event problem statements are designed to work with the databases listed below.

Currently, all of the Java Competition Event problem statements are developed and tested using MS Office, MS Access, StarOffice Base, and MySQL.

Microsoft Access 2000/2002/XP (With Microsoft Office Professional)
Most educational institutions already have MS Access installed so past Java contests have used it. Additionally, most students are already familiar with it.

Sun StarOffice 5.2 (StarOffice Base)
StarOffice is file compatible with MS Office and is becoming very popular in educational and large business organizations where Linux is making significant inroads. Microsoft's new volume licensing has created a huge demand for StarOffice in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, where it is replacing MS Office on many Windows platforms. Microsoft is still popular in North America education institutions primarily due to the educational pricing.

MySQL 1.3 for Windows
MySQL is easy to install and configure on Windows platforms. If student contestants need an easy to use database to practice with, MySQL provides an excellent solution.

Paradox 9 (With WordPerfect Office 2000 Professional)

Java Version
The Java Competition Event uses the Sun version of Java to minimize compatibility issues between vendors. Any knowledge and skill-based competency in Java should be based on the native Java foundation.

Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition
The latest version of Java can be downloaded, installed, and used for free over the Internet by clicking on the link above.
Java IDE

The Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is the most discussed issue for the Java Competition Event. Educational institutions vary in their selection and use of IDE's. Selecting an IDE that is complex and expensive to use can place some student contestants at a disadvantage. Additionally, the Java Competition Event is designed to test Java programming skills, not how fancy a team can build their GUI. The past Java contests used Kawa since it had built in CodeWright support and was available to students and education institutions at a significant discount (the full commercial product was also low-cost). Unfortunately, Macromedia (Allaire) has discontinued further development and support for Kawa.

The Java Competition Event is still exploring the specific Java IDE to use.

Two likely Java IDE candidates have been identified:
TextPad and NetBeans.
Currently, TextPad has been tentatively selected.

Persons interested in submitting comments, feedback, and suggestions are invited to do so here.

TextPad 4.5
TextPad is a low-cost (USD $27) editor with Java support. This product is very easy to install and learn. TextPad can be downloaded via the Internet for free on a try-before-you-buy basis. TextPad supports the Java coding style and supports line numbering on printouts. Java classes can be compiled and run from within TextPad.

This open source IDE offered by Sun can be downloaded via the Internet for free. Support is provided through the NetBeans open source community.

GNU Emacs
GNU Emacs provides Java support, as well as support for a number of additional programming and scripting languages. Emacs has been traditionally popular on UNIX/Linux platforms and is now available for Windows. GNU Emacs is available for free.

CodeWright 6.6
In the 2000 and 2001 contest, Kawa was used as the IDE. Kawa provided built in CodeWright support and has been discontinued by Allaire. CodeWright is more expensive than Kawa (USD $249+). CodeWright is a very powerful IDE. Information on educational pricing is not currently available.

Borland JBuilder
While many schools use JBuilder and educational discounts are available to students and educational institutions, JBuilder is complex and requires time to learn. The steeper learning curve, user interface design capabilities, and lack of universal acceptance by educational institutions were reasons for not using JBuilder in the Java contest. JBuilder is a very good Java IDE.

Forte for Java
This commercial IDE offered by Sun can be downloaded as a free trial version for 60 days. Full licensing pricing is fairly steep. Forte for Java is based on the open source NetBeans IDE. Forte for Java comes with full support from Sun.

IBM WebSphere Studio Application Developer
Studio Application Developer is optimized for IBM WebSphere. The product is complex and requires time to learn. Education pricing for educational institutions is available. WebSphere is too complex for the target audience of first semester Java student contestants.

IBM VisualAge for Java
VisualAge for Java provides UML modeling for WebSphere and Studio Application Developer. Education pricing for educational institutions is available.

TogetherSoft Together Control Center
TogetherJ was used to provide the UML model and documentation used in the 2000 and 2001 Java Competition Events. TogetherSoft has replaced TogtherJ with Toghether Control Center. Education pricing for educational institutions is available.


Comments and Feedback

Please post your public comments on the AITP Student Forum:

Comments to the AITP NCC Java Competition Event Coordinator
may be e-mailed to:
Don Baldwin

Last Updated: SUN 30 DEC 2001

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