To see any of my recreational programming projects, look at my independent projects page.
TopCoder is a company which offers many services for professional programmers, freelancers, those looking to hire freelancers, and a variety of others, but for me what caught my attention was their warm welcome for new programmers with little commercial experience. TopCoder would host low-pressure competitions known as "Single Round Matches" (SRMs) on a roughly biweekly schedule year round. Although the division one competitors were well-seasoned coders, the second division of this tournament would be filled with new programmers and students. Each SRM would consist of three questions of varying maximum point value, and each player scored points based on how quickly they could code a solution to the three given problems. I never performed that well, but I enjoyed the competitive atmosphere and used the opportunities to brush up on my Java programming.
Sometime during my early high school, I competed in an online programming competition known as the USACO contest hosted by Rob Kolstad. Unlike the SRMs which I was used to, each USACO contest had a window of a few days where the competition was open; each participant could choose whatever 3 hour period during that window when they would compete. These problems were slightly more involved, and the final submissions involved basic file I/O (as opposed to simply comparing the output to, say, standard out). I competed in the novice competition in December, 2006 (results available here) and was one of the 13 Americans to score a perfect score. Unfortunately, I never came back to compete in the any of the higher divisions, but I learned a lot nonetheless.
Slippery Rock Programming Contest
One of the programming tournaments which my high school participated in during my junior year was the SRU high school programming competition. As part of the upper division first place team for Franklin Regional, I exercised not only my technical skills in programming, but also teamwork strategies that helped us form an effective group.
Another similar competition which our high school took part in was the Blackhawk Programming Competition, which I participated in during my 9th, 10th, and 11th grade. I recall my team winning at least one of the tournaments, but I'm unable to find any sort of online results for the Blackhawk competition.