The USA Computing Olympiad
started in 1992, when Don Piele
took a team to Berlin, Germany
to compete in the International Olympiad
). Since then, every year, the USA
has held a competition to select the 4 high school
students to represent the USA.
The current form of the competition in six contest: one in November, December, January, February, March, a the US Open in April. Based on these contests, 16 students are invited to a week-long selection camp. From these 16, 4 are selected to go to the International competition, the International Olympiad in Informatics.
The USACO is an individual programming contest, somewhat akin to the ACM Programming Contest in coverage. It emphasizes algorithms, although coding and debugging are still important. Solution are submitted as source code in C, C++, Java, or Pascal.
The competition is focused on American high school students, but allows international participants, as well as non-students.
There are training pages available at train.usaco.org, available to anyone. For more information, the USACO's home page is www.usaco.org.