Team will test computer skills in Stockholm

University computer science students place second in regional competition, will compete in world event in April

A University computer science programming team placed second in the Mid-Atlantic USA Programming Contest Saturday and will go on to compete in the world-wide International Collegiate Programming Contest, in Stockholm, Sweden, this spring.  

Asst. Computer Science Prof. Aaron Bloomfield, who coached the University’s teams, said the University sent a total of 29 students and 10 teams to the contest. One of the University teams qualified for the Stockholm contest, which is organized by the Association for Computing Machinery. The University’s teams were among 161 teams that competed in the regional event at Marymount University, representing schools including the University of Maryland, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, Virginia Tech, George Mason University and Dickinson College. A University of Maryland team placed first in the contest, while a Duke team placed third. The first- and second-place teams, Bloomfield said, qualify for the world competition in the spring.

Bill Poucher, executive director of ACM-ICPC and a computer science professor at Baylor University, described the contest, in which teams of three are given five hours to solve problems, as “the ultimate gaming sport.”

Bloomfield noted that during the contest, no team was able to solve all eight of the given problems within the allotted amount of time, but the winning team from the University of Maryland solved seven problems while teams from the University, Duke and Dickinson solved five. The University team finished second because it solved its problems faster than the teams from Duke and Dickinson.

The University’s second-place team, which was comprised of second-year Engineering students Briana Satchell and Calvin Li and third-year Engineering student George Washington, will compete April 18 in Stockholm. More than 6,700 teams from 83 countries have competed in this year’s contest, but only 100 teams will advance to the world contest.

The global competition will follow a format similar to the regional competition, but teams can expect to solve problems with a higher level of difficulty. Poucher said the level of talent seen at the world contest is very impressive, noting that it is “amazing for people to see what these competitors do.”

Washington said he was surprised his team placed so high, adding that the contest was “stressful, but a kind of fun-stressful.”

Washington also said he felt fairly confident going into the competition, even though this was his first programming competition since high school. He noted that he was grateful to have a team comprised of people who worked well together and possessed a good understanding of computer science.

Li agreed that the team was cohesive, noting that the team was able to properly portion its problems while competing.

Washington also said he owed the team’s success to his coach, Bloomfield, whom “was very approachable and helpful ... he kept us motivated.”

Bloomfield said this is the first year he served as the coach of the University’s programming teams. As coach, Bloomfield said he prepared the teams for the contest by organizing practices, which took place once a week in Olsson Hall during the six weeks before the contest.

“I also liked the fact that they all had a good time in the practices and in the competition itself,” Bloomfield noted.

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