2018 International Ruby Programming Contest for Junior and Senior High School Students – In Mitaka
Mr. Hiroshi Inoue welcomed everyone and commenced the contest on behalf of the organizers. After telling the participants that his role was to help them relax, if only a little, he encouraged them by telling them everyone chosen to be there had already achieved a fantastic result by making it through to the finals, and asked that they relax and demonstrate their normal capabilities.
First Prize: Yoshinobu Iga, Tottori
Program name: Easy Coding
Yoshinobu Iga, a second year junior high school student entering the contest for the first time, did a brilliant job of winning the first prize in the games division. Yoshinobu’s entry was a game that allows anyone to enjoy learning visual programming. His game has the clear goal of “clearing the game” from the very beginning, which allows players to have fun learning visual programming without any confusion about that they have to do. The judges also evaluated his entry highly, saying “it is a fully fledged game, while also having educational goals.” Yoshinobu first started to study programming is his first year of junior high. Around that time, he wanted to enter the contest, but was unable to create an entry to his own satisfaction, and had kept putting off entering until this year. This year – his second year of senior high – however, he completed a program that he was satisfied with, and claimed first prize with his long awaited entry. At the awards ceremony, Yoshinobu said “I’m so honored to receive such a prize. I hope to incorporate the advice of the judges into my future programs.”
Runner Up: Yasushi Chihara, Ehime Prefectural Matsuyama Technical High School (Ehime)
Program name: Super Nova
Building on his results making it through to the finals last year, Yasushi Chihara submitted a puzzle-action-maze game with a galactic theme. The player moves three characters – the Earth, the sun, and the moon – and clears stages by placing the Earth and the moon on top of one another. The player can only control the sun and the earth, and the moon moves as if it is being pulled by the gravity of the Earth. If the player accidentally crashes the moon into the sun, the moon blows up and it is game over. Although some judges said it was difficult, it also drew praise for being such a well thought out game, and the judges hoped he would maintain his creative approach going forward. Yasushi, who took out the runner up prize, told us his hopes for next year, saying “as a first year I won the judges special prize, and in my second year I took out the runner up prize, so next year I want to win first place.”
Judges’ Special Prize and Matz Prize:
Team Hako (Kanata Takahashi and Wataru Hanzawa), Science and Technical Club, Takizawa Daini Junior High School (Iwate)
Program name: Calculation BOX
Team Hako, comprising Kanata Takahashi in charge of programming and Wataru Hanzawa in charge of materials, created a puzzle game called Calculation BOX that combines calculations and the requirement of creating a single, unbroken line. Numbers are lined up in a square box, and the player has to add those numbers to move a set number of spaces and ultimately choose a route so that the total becomes zero. With respect to the fact that they wanted to create a game that could even be played by first year elementary school students, the judges commented that it would be good brain training for the elderly, too. The judges made comments such as that they should patent it quickly, and highly rated the concept. Although they unfortunately only received the judges’ special prize, Chief Judge, Mr. Matsumoto, also awarded them the Matz Prize. They were thrilled and surprised, saying that “It was a great experience even just creating our first game and giving our presentation, but this will be a cherished memory thanks to winning the Matz Prize.
Judges’ Special Prize: Team Syake (Ryota Takahashi) Science and Technical Club, Takizawa Daini Junior High School (Iwate)
Program name: Iwate no Shake (Iwate Salmon)
Ryota Takahashi entered a game called Iwate no Shake (Iwate Salmon) in this year’s contest featuring local nambu salmon as the protagonist. When asked why he based it on salmon, Ryota said that he “wanted to incorporate a process in the game where the player grows the character.” Salmon, which starts as a juvenile and grows to maturity, perfectly fit his concept for the game. He also said that he used nambu salmon – which has the biggest autumn harvest of salmon in Honshu – because he wanted the fish, which is loved by the people of Iwate, to be better known by more people. The judges highly rated his game, which is overflowing with his love of his hometown, saying it was well done, and he is very talented to make such an interesting game. With respect to the fact that he gave the first presentation of the day, he said with a relieved look on his face that he was nervous, but he was happy that he managed to say everything he planned to.
Judges’ Special Prize: Team Meneki (Hibiki Hatakeyame and Reishun Sato) Science and Technical Club, Takizawa Daini Junior High School (Iwate)
Program name: Immunity's War
The two-man team of Hibiki Hatakeyama and Reishun Sato were the youngest finalists in this year’s contest. Their game was based on the concept of immunity. The game has as its characters four types of immune cells that actually exist within our bodies, and the player tries to clear the game by defeating the germs. Hibiki, who was in charge of programming, came up with the concept, and Reishun was in charge of the visible parts such as design. When asked about any difficulties they had, they said that it was hard work researching the immune cells’ movements and reflecting that in the nature of the characters. The judges made comments including that it was very interesting as a game, and that they could further improve it by getting user feedback.
Although they were the youngest presenters, they seemed to cover all of their points despite their nerves. They stated their hopes for next year saying, “We wanted to rank higher next year” and “Next year for sure!”
Judges’ Special Prize: Kotaro Hayashi, Ehime Prefectural Matsuyama Technical High School (Ehime)
Program name: one rabbit
For this year’s entry, Kotaro Hayashi created a puzzle game where the player has to control a rabbit and try to reach the finish while rotating the map. Blocks fall from above when the map is rotated, so the player has to fully consider where the rabbit is positioned before rotating the map, otherwise the falling blocks will hit the rabbit. Even the judges thought this was difficult, but the game was rated highly, and the judges wanted Kotaro to maintain his creative approach. Kotaro said that he originally made a maze game, but it was very boring so he came up with the idea of rotating the map, which lead to the birth of this game. He had a hard time completing the game, and had to fix bugs that kept appearing until right before the deadline, but he spoke with a relieved look on his face, saying that he was nervous because it was his first presentation, but now a weight has fallen from his shoulders.
Judges’ Special Prize: Yuga Shinozaki, Ehime Prefectural Matsuyama Technical High School (Ehime)
Program name: Panel Vanish
Yuga Shinozaki, who is currently in his third year of senior high school, has a strong track record in the competition, and has been a finalist for three years in a row. With the goal of definitely winning first prize this year, he submitted a puzzle game – Panel Vanish. He began working on the concept for the game soon after last year’s finals, but had trouble coming up with a good idea, leading him to create and change his game repeatedly while consulting with friends until he finally completed this year’s entry. The judges made comments such as that the gameplay was highly polished, and that it was suitable for smartphones and maybe he should try making smartphone games. This was Yuga’s last time entering the contest, and when asked what the programming contest meant to him, he answered that it was disappointing, but “Next year I will be going to a vocational college specializing in games. I think it was a good experience leaving me in good standing for the future.”
First Prize: Kokoro Kobayashi, Tokyo
Program name: Quiz Note
It was a local resident of Mitaka, second year senior high school student Kokoro Kobayashi, who took out first place in the creative division. Kokoro, who belongs to his schools quiz study club, created an application that lets even a novice with no programming experience easily create a quiz scorecard. With quizzes increasing in popularity, and quiz contests being held all over the country, the demand for a scorecard that can be displayed on a screen is increasing, so Kokoro, with his programming experience, thought that he could make it himself and help people all over Japan. The judges also rated his entry highly, saying that it was fantastic that he was able to use technology to easily solve an issue close to him. Kokoro never thought he would win first prize, and was shocked, but what made him happiest was that he was able to make what he wanted.
Runner Up: Haruki Sano, Saitama
Program name: minepics
First year senior high school student Haruki Sano created a social network dedicated to Minecraft for his first contest entry. Haruki has loved Minecraft since junior high, and has posted his architectural creations on social media. However, because this got mixed together with other posts, he felt it was hard to view, so he decided to create a social network dedicated to Minecraft. The site opened in June 2018, and has grown into a community already boasting 1,800 users. Through his program he has felt the pleasure of having his own creation influence others, and said “programming is like a dream tool.” Haruki said that he has already started working towards next year’s contest, and we are all looking forward to seeing what he creates.
Judges’ Special Prize: Yuga Shinozaki, Ehime Prefectural Matsuyama Technical High School (Ehime)
Program name: Automatic Indent Function
Yuga managed to make it through to the finals with entries in both the game and creative divisions. When asked why he submitted this entry, he said that originally he didn’t intend to submit two entries, but when he had problems coming up with an idea for a game, he created this entry “Automatic Indent Function” to improve his technical skills as well as because he though such a service would be useful. When his teach recommended that he submit it because he had gone to the trouble of making it, he achieved the great result of making it through to the finals. He had wanted to win first prize in his last year of senior high, so he seemed disappointed with the Judges’ Special Prize. Yuga is always setting his sights on higher goals, and after the awards ceremony he said that he wants to use the fact that he didn’t win to motivate him in the Smalruby programming contest.
Comments and Lecture
Lecture title: The World of Programming Presented by: Yukihiro Matsumoto, Chief Judge
Before his lecture, Chief Judge Yukihiro Matsumoto gave his overall evaluation of this year’s contest. Mr. Matsumoto said that the winner of the first prize in the game division, Easy Coding, was an example of great introduction to visual programming because it clearly defined the issues to be tackled. With respect to the runner up, Super Nova, he said that it was awarded the prize because of the depth of the gameplay as a puzzle game. Calculation Box, which narrowly missed out on a place and won the Judges’ Special Prize was neck-and-neck with Super Nova until the end. Although it ultimately lost to Super Nova, it was highly evaluated for being a game of great depth that belied it simplicity, and was awarded the Matz Prize, the Chief Judge’s Special Prize established for the first time this year.
The first place winner of the Creative Division, Quiz Note, was highly evaluated because it created a tool for which society has a demand, in response to the increasing popularity of quiz contests. The runner up, minepics, was highly rated because a senior high student implemented community management and website configuration at a practical level, and boasted the enviable achievement of gathering almost 2,000 users.
Lecture: The World of Programming
Mr. Matsumoto, who currently resides in Shimane Prefecture, flew to Tokyo on the morning of the contest. Before the development of technology a trip to Tokyo would probably have taken several months each way, and experiencing a world where one can do a return trip in a single day, Mr. Matsumoto felt first hand just how much technology has changed out lifestyle and society.
Computers are also one technology that has changed our world. In the past, computers were mere calculation machines, but their role has rapidly changed, and today they have become machines with unlimited purposes through the use and creation of dedicated software. Furthermore, the software development environment has also rapidly improved. However, if one asks whether everyone in the world will be a programmer, the answer is no. There is an invisible psychological barrier, and the world is divided into those who overcome that barrier and those who do not. Mr. Matsumoto called the junior and senior high school students in the contest those who have already taken the first step, and he hopes that they use the power of technology to change society in the future.
Osamu Uchida, the Deputy Mayor of Mitaka City and Chairman & CEO of Mitaka Town Management Organization gave the closing remarks. After expressing his admiration of, and praise for, the contestants, he expressed his gratitude to the sponsors and supporters of the contest, as well as committee members involved in organizing and running the contest, before drawing the event to a close.