Trying to explain code to a rubber duck may sound like an unusual study technique – but it certainly paid off for ACG Parnell College alumna Jenna Parkin.
The computing whiz-kid was presented with the Top in World title at the Cambridge Outstanding Learner Awards for the second consecutive year, firmly cementing her place as one of the school’s computer science legends.
“Winning Top in World in 2020 for AS-Level computer science was incredible. Hearing that I’d achieved this award again in 2021 for A-Levels was unbelievable,” says Jenna. “I was so proud that my hard work paid off and so thankful for all the support of my teachers, especially Mr Van Tonder. The award confirmed that my study methods and understanding of computer science are solid, which has been really significant and motivating. I’m looking forward to pursuing a career in that field, so I’m grateful to have such strong foundations and a significant accolade.”
Throughout her studies, Jenna took advantage of every opportunity to sharpen her knowledge – even the more unconventional ones.
“ACG teachers and the curriculum are so valuable. I used every support and resource offered, including textbooks, asking teachers questions, and working through past papers. And I never underestimated the value of handwritten notes! Last year ACG provided all of the computer science students with rubber ducks to help us ‘rubber duck decode’. The theory is that if you try to explain your code to a rubber duck, then you can most likely identify a problem with your logic.”
Identifying problems – and solving them – is a big part of the appeal for Jenna, who was drawn to computer science because of its mix of creativity and analysis.
“Coding and problem solving is definitely my favourite part of the curriculum. I find it fascinating how many ways there are to solve problems. Solving an algorithm or debugging code is so structured, and it’s incredibly satisfying when your code finally works! The hardware side of computer science was more challenging, but I enjoyed how the Cambridge curriculum tied it into the physics curriculum.”
Now the former Head Prefect is building on these skills at the University of Melbourne, where she’s working towards a Bachelor of Science majoring in software and computing systems.
“Starting my degree, I can see how applicable and relevant the Cambridge curriculum is. I feel so secure in my understanding of the foundations of computing, and my knowledge is incredibly well rounded. I’ve already used so much of my learning from ACG in my first year, and I definitely feel as though I have an advantage through my education.”
But as she has discovered, there’s more to university life than just sitting in a lab or lecture hall.
“I’ve joined the Competitive Programming Club and the Women in STEM Club. These clubs are already offering opportunities to meet people with a similar passion and expand my coding knowledge. I’m looking forward to taking every opportunity to learn, network and develop.”
And while the University of Melbourne is an exciting new step on her computing journey, Jenna is not about to forget ACG Parnell College any time soon.
“There were so many highlights during my time there – the environment, the people, and especially the teachers. ACG teachers really go above and beyond. I asked them so many questions on Microsoft Teams after school or on weekends, and they’d always reply with supportive and thorough explanations. Their pride and support after I received great grades was a huge reflection of how much they cared about my learning.”