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UNT student wins IBM's Master the Mainframe coding contest for the second year in a row

Anna McKee was the first woman to win IBM's Master the Mainframe and is the only woman among this year’s North American and global winners.

A UNT G. Brint Ryan College of Business student was the first woman to win IBM’s collegiate coding contest, Master the Mainframe, last year — now, she’s done it again.

The win by senior Anna McKee marks the third consecutive time a UNT student has won the competition. Anna is one of two winners and the only woman to win this year for the North American region. Her performance also resulted in McKee being ranked in the top three competitors globally — the only woman in the winning group. 

 “When I competed in Master the Mainframe in September 2017, I thought that the whole competition was judged on how long it took to complete,” says McKee. “I worked like crazy to work through all three parts and finished in just two weeks. What I didn’t realize was that only the first two parts of the contest are based on time and that I actually had until the end of December to complete the third and hardest challenge. I was shocked when I found out that I’d won.”

Master the Mainframe is a hands-on virtual competition that gathers students from six regions of the world and challenges them to master the skills that experienced mainframe systems programmers use to do their jobs. Competitors like McKee, a student in the Department of Information Technology and Decision Sciences, faced off against other students in North America to come up with the most creative solutions to real-life computing problems and coding errors.

More than 18,000 high school and university students, a record number, participated in the three-part competition. Part One is for beginners (no previous mainframe experience necessary). Contestants learn the basics of mainframe programing with step-by-step instructions to complete challenges. Part Two is a mainframe skills journey where students complete challenges that help them use computer languages to navigate the mainframe environment. Part Three, the most difficult challenge, is the “Real World Challenge” where competitors use real-life scenarios encountered by experienced systems programmers to develop unique, creative solutions with limited guidance. Only a select number of students choose to go on to Part Three, and an even smaller number are able to complete that portion.

As part of her award, McKee received a $1,000 prize pack, and a $2,750 travel stipend to attend IBM’s largest conference of the year: THINK 2019. At the San Francisco event, McKee was recognized on stage in front of thousands of conference attendees. McKee will graduate from UNT this spring with a Bachelor of Science in information systems and a Bachelor of Business Administration in decision sciences.