What is the NCSS Challenge?

The NCSS Challenge is a programming competition open to all school students and teachers. The Grok Academy team have been running coding competitions like the challenge for over 12 years.

The NCSS Challenge is unlike any other programming competition. We’ll teach you how to program as we go along, rather than expecting you to be an expert already. If you’re a seasoned coder, we have something for you too – the problems range from relatively simple to mind-bendingly hard.

Starting on and running for about 5 weeks, we will release notes and problems containing the information you will need to complete the week's programming challenges.

Why learn to code?

Programming (also known as coding) is how sites like Facebook and apps like Instagram are made. Knowing how to program is like having a computing super power.

Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have all said that students should learn how to code. It’s a skill that not only teaches you how to work with computers, but also teaches you how to think about solving problems with systems.

The NCSS Challenge teaches students to code in Python 3.6. Python is an easy to learn scripting language used for many different purposes such as web applications and scientific research. Companies like Google, Facebook and Reddit all use Python in their infrastructure and web services.

There's a Challenge stream to challenge anyone!

During the NCSS Challenge you will:

  • Get content aligned to the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies for Years 5-10
  • Get intelligent automarking and instant feedback
  • Learn to code as you go along (you don't need to be an expert!)
  • Solve exciting real-world problems
  • Compete against students from Australia and New Zealand
  • Chat with online support from expert tutors
  • Earn points to climb the leaderboard

The NCSS Challenge is for school students from upper primary to all levels of high school; there's a stream to match every student's ability.


Entry to the NCSS Challenge is free for all Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand school students thanks to the generous support of WiseTech Global.

For international schools, entry is included when you purchase access to Grok for your students. To give your students access to this competition and all other Grok content please contact us for a quote, or check our Pricing Information page.

Course badge for NCSS Challenge (Newbies)

NCSS Challenge (Newbies)

Perfect for young beginners


The Newbies stream of the NCSS Challenge has been built for students with no experience in coding at all. It uses a friendly block-based coding environment to introduce fundamental computational thinking concepts.

The Newbies stream is friendlier for younger students, so that students in primary school can be involved too!

Aligned to the Year 5/6 DT Curriculum Curriculum links

Course badge for NCSS Challenge (Beginners)

NCSS Challenge (Beginners) Blockly

Perfect for beginners of all ages


The Beginners Blockly stream of the NCSS Challenge covers the same concepts as Beginners Python, however it uses simpler language and more scaffolding to assist students who need some extra support.

Aligned to the Year 7/8 DT Curriculum Curriculum links

Course badge for NCSS Challenge (Beginners)

NCSS Challenge (Beginners) Python

Perfect for beginners of all ages


The Beginners stream of the NCSS Challenge is the best stream for most students. It introduces fundamental computational thinking concepts, plus adds some fun stuff on top.

Aligned to the Year 7/8 DT Curriculum Curriculum links

Course badge for NCSS Challenge (Intermediate)

NCSS Challenge (Intermediate)

For experienced students, to stretch further

Python Experience required!

The Intermediate stream of the NCSS Challenge is for students who have completed the Beginners stream and want to learn more. It introduces data structures, files and more ways to use functions.

We recommend students only do Intermediate if they've done Beginners or an equivalent Python course before.

Aligned to the Year 9/10 DT Curriculum Curriculum links

Course badge for the NCSS Challenge (Advanced)

NCSS Challenge (Advanced)

Python Experience required!

The Advanced stream of the NCSS Challenge follows on from the Intermediate stream. This stream introduces topics such as complex loops, nested control structures, searching algorithms, functions extension, and an introduction to object-oriented programming.

Course details, scoring and leaderboards

Aligned to the Year 9/10 DT Curriculum Curriculum links

Our Teaching Philosophy

We want the NCSS Challenge to be a competition for every student. That means students who've never coded as well as those with years of experience.

To make sure everyone can be included, we teach coding as we go along. Each week we release new notes and problems; the notes teach new coding concepts, and the problems challenge them!

The core of the Challenge is our problems. We put a huge amount of effort into making them relevant, real-world problems that challenge at just the right level. Plus, when you're coding in the Challenge you won't just learn about coding - we'll slip in some science, language, maths, history and geography too!

What students and teachers are saying…

“It teaches you as you go so you are able to test yourself, but you aren't expected to already know everything. I love how the problems are so creative, and entertaining to read. The tutors are also really friendly and respond quickly to queries.”

Lauren, 17

“Working on a challenge for hours, racking your brain and thinking about it for hours more, and then the feeling of success and satisfaction when you run it and it's correct! I love the little adrenaline rush you get when all the green ticks pop up!”

Lillian, 14

“It's been a challenging time. Floods and fire over the past few years. Just this year in SE Qld we've lost Week 1 and 2, lots of our students have been affected by COVID, and now they've experienced more than a week out due to these current storms. But in the good news, it's things like GROK that have kept students focused and on track. The continuity online and on site has been awesome. They love the exercises and I love the live dashboard!”

Cathy, Curriculum Leader at McAuley College

“Not only did the challenges allow [students] to develop new skills, it also improved their self confidence as they were able to see the improvements they made as they worked through the problems. Our school based data shows improved computational thinking with improved results in external competitions.”

Linda, Technology Teacher

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The most effective way for students to learn coding.

Challenging problems

Our problem-based learning approach matches each new concept with a problem so you learn by doing!

Code in the browser

Code from any device, any time - start a question on your iPad at school and finish it off on your computer at home.

Interactive notes

Dive straight into coding while using the notes, with interactive code snippets that can be edited and run.

Intelligent automarking

Our automarker breaks each problem down into tests and gives you useful feedback to help you solve it!

Designed for teachers

We've designed our platform with your needs firmly in mind. Let our classroom-ready resources do the heavy lifting of content delivery, so you can focus on your students.

View student progress

View and edit your students’ details, and easily keep track of their progress on our teacher dashboard. Get quick updates at a glance, or drill down to see all student activity.

Students will also receive…

Online tutor support

Find a welcoming community of qualified tutors providing personalised, one-on-one support. Get help and communicate in a safe, moderated environment.

Certificate of achievement

Grok competitions are challenging, and we want to recognise students’ achievements! All students who participate will receive a printable certificate.

Rank on the leaderboard

Go head to head with students from around the world! Earn points for each problem you solve, and rank on the leaderboard to win glory for yourself and your school!

Are you a teacher?

The Challenge is used by hundreds of teachers as a key part of their existing computing courses.

We provide you with all the notes and support you need to run the NCSS Challenge as a classroom activity - no software installation is required. We give you access to the content throughout the year, so you can move at a pace that suits your class. You can track your students’ progress using our teacher dashboard, and we provide expert support for any questions you have.

Sign up my class!

Who runs this?

The NCSS Challenge is run by Grok Academy. Between us we have decades of experience teaching students how to program.

Our goal in starting Grok Academy is to do more: more students in more countries; more intelligent auto-marking; more courses, projects and competitions running more times each year — which equals more fun learning.

The Challenge is supported by an army of expert tutors from universities and our industry sponsors. They personally respond to messages from students, answering questions and helping them learn.

The NCSS Challenge is possible thanks to our fantastic sponsors!

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