Eduardo and Javier Esteban

When passion, intelligence, and talent come together, one goes well equipped in life. If work and effort are added to this wonderful triad, success is guaranteed.

Las Tunas, Cuba.- That seems to be the key of the duet that Eduardo Brito Labrada and Javier Esteban Forte Reyes, disciple and coach, respectively, formed with a view to the Ibero-American Informatics and Computing Olympiad.

"Scratching points" based on a well-thought-out strategy determined by the life experience of both was the route in the contest which Cuba attended with 15 representatives and the student from Las Tunas deserved one of the four silver medals obtained.

"The competition consisted of four problems to be solved in five hours. These had a mathematical approach and an algorithmic nature and were based on aspects of real-life", explains Eduardo, who has just finished the twelfth grade at the Luis Urquiza Jorge Senior High School of Exact Sciences (Ipvce, for its acronym in Spanish) and will soon (pandemic permitting) start Higher Education in the Computer Science Major.

Very close to his pupil, Javier Esteban listens, and when we finally talk, his youth and vision of every aspect surprise and admires.

"I worked so that my students would not make the mistakes I had made earlier in my student years. We focused on studying and practicing a lot. I tried to give them all the algorithmic content that I was aware of and from there that they would have more tools and possibilities for better results.

"I thought that framing ourselves in the High School Program was not enough and we gave more advanced topics that go into the college-level programming competition, which has another format. The competition has gone up a level because of the more popular access to technology."

For the mentor and his students, the last few months were of constant and rigorous training, in which the team focused on solving problems available on different web platforms (CodeForces and AtCoder) for competitive programming. Every detail could influence the final result, so seemingly trivial aspects such as the study method or where to start and where to focus attention on the day of the exam, were part of the teaching and learning.

Consequently, Eduardo, who had previously had his stumbles, perhaps due to the absence of a technique to organize himself in the midst of the tension of the test, changed his tactics this time: "First I chose to read the problems, classify them by level of difficulty and solve, first of all, the least complex and then the most difficult, because before I did the opposite and when you see that you cannot solve an exercise that you think you can solve, you waste a lot of time on that problem and in the end the time is gone and you do not realize it. I learned to classify a little better and I was calm".

His guide, who is passionate about Cryptography, Cyber Security, Programming, and new technologies in general, is convinced that each generation can surpass the previous one. He has seen it in the classrooms and trusts in Cuba's human capital and possibilities to successfully "navigate" in this world, which the island has yet to take better advantage of.

The young man, who has become a teacher-trainer and student at the University of Informatics Sciences (UCI, for its acronym in Spanish), is also very clear that "even if you are very intelligent, if you do not work and study, there will be no results; the results are seen in those who have worked better, beyond the one who is more intelligent".

Javier has also had the good sense to instill in his pupil the idea that learning is, above all, an act of enjoyment. "It doesn't matter what the result is, but how much fun you have because, in the end, it will always give you something for the future," says Eduardo.

Happy with his disciple's award, the student-teacher, who recognizes the sui generis character of these students, their constancy, and the pressure they usually have on them, declares: "I have taught them what I know and they have allowed me to learn a lot, and also to see myself in their shoes, as if I were them. This has been an experience in which the trainer also gets feedback from his contestants. It is an experience that makes you evolve not only in terms of the contest but also as a person."