AlphaStar Computer Science Program aims to train students towards the USA Computing Olympiad (USACO) and similar competitive programming competitions. USACO is the most prestigious pre-college Computer Science competition in the US.
The USACO holds periodic web-based contests during the academic year, and in the late Spring conducts the US Open, our “national championship” exam. Contests generally run for three to five continuous hours in length, although for maximum flexibility, you are free to schedule this block of time anywhere within a Friday-to-Monday contest weekend — your timer starts when you log into the contest and download the problems. Contest tasks are presented on the web, and you submit your final solutions through a simple web interface. Participation is free and open to all.
Contests are offered in four divisions:
All participants start in the bronze division, and those who score particularly well in a contest will be promoted to the next division. Contestants scoring particularly highly will be automatically promoted to the next division while a contest is running; others will need to wait until results are announced at the end of the contest to see if they meet the (contest-dependent) cutoff for promotion.
[*] Retrieved from USACO website. See http://www.usaco.org/ for further information on USACO.
AlphaStar Computer Science Program has benefits to students in various ways throughout their lives. Some of the crucial ones can be summarized as follows:
The distinguished features AlphaStar CS Program can be summarized as follows:
AlphaStar CS Program has three types of courses: (1) fundamental, (2) booster, and (3) practice test. The following table summarizes the difference between these types.
|Fundamental Courses||Booster Courses||Practice Test Courses|
|Objective||Mastery of the programming language or the topics in that USACO level||Improving USACO score in a short time||Timed practice exams to experience a real exam environment|
|Strategy||Learning the topics of the level and practicing by solving problems that require those topics||Focusing on exam strategies and solving extensive problems in various topics in that level||Exams strategies; how to approach and analyze the problem, find and implement the solution|
|Content||Topics of the level and former USACO or similar problems||Only former USACO or similar problems (problems are different than year-round courses)||Four exams similar to 1 year of USACO. All exams are prepared by AlphaStar.|
|Self-study||Available anytime||Available anytime||Available anytime|
|Live versions offered||During fall / winter / spring / summer||During winter break||During fall|
A fundamental live course can be offered in different paces at different times. Here’s the comparison of the same course offering options:
|Live courses||Fall / Spring Terms||Summer|
|Pace||weekly session||daily session|
|Sessions||16 sessions||15 sessions|
|Session time||2 hours||3 hours|
|Homework (average)||1 hours per session||rarely|
|Total workload||32 instruction and practice hours +|
16 hours of homework
|45 hours instruction and practice|
Note that summer courses require a little bit less time than the year-round ones since students do the practice in class with guidance and they are more focused. On the other hand, students need more time to digest the instruction in year-round courses due to their school work or other distractions.
The following chart shows levels and summarizes the flow of courses in the AlphaStar CS curriculum:
AlphaStar CS Program has 5 levels some of which have basic and advanced courses as follows (click to the course codes for course details):
NOTE: In USACO Bronze or above level courses, students can use any of Python, C++, or Java programming languages to solve the problems.
|School Courses||AlphaStar Courses||Explanation|
|Middle / High school|
Intro to Programming
|Programming with Python / C++/ Java||AlphaStar courses focus on in-depth problem solving rather than the language details and object oriented part of the language as in school courses|
|AP CS A||USACO Bronze||USACO Bronze contains some of the topics of AP CS A course but doesn't include object-oriented and software engineering topics. In terms of problem set, USACO Bronze is way more difficult than AP CS A course.|
|College sophomore year|
|College junior year|
Advanced Data Structures and Algorithms
You can take AlphaStar Computer Science Diagnostic Exam at: https://app.alphastar.academy/diagnosticexam/