ACM Programming Competition

acmHappy Friday everyone! Today’s blog post will be all about last Saturday’s ACM ICPC. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then make sure to keep reading! I had the opportunity to talk to Professor Roberto Flores, who is the Site Director, Nigel Armstrong, member of Team Gamma, and Isaac Sutor, a volunteer. Check out what they had to say!

What is ACM?

The Association for Computer Machinery (ACM) is recognized worldwide as the first membership organization for computing professionals. If you weren’t already aware, CNU has it’s own ACM student chapter!

What is the ICPC?

The ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious programming contest in the world. It’s a network of universities all over the globe that host regional competitions that advance teams to the World Finals. All participating universities within a region compete the exact same day. CNU is part of the mid Atlantic region and within this region, there were 185 teams of three from 68 universities this year. There are only nine sites that host the regional competition and CNU happens to be one of those sites! This year’s regional competition was held last Saturday at CNU’s very own Hunter Creech lab. Our department hosted 16 teams from the College of William and Mary, Richmond University, the University of Mary Washington and Virginia Wesleyan College.

What does the competition consist of?

All nine sites are very well coordinated since all the teams in the region must start and end at the exact same time. That means that on November 7th, 185 teams were attempting to solve the seven programming problems presented by the ACM from noon to five pm. There was one computer provided to each team and the teams could only use printed material as reference to help them solve these problems. Once a team solves a problem, the solution is sent to an online judge. This judge immediately sends a response if the solution submitted was right or wrong. Once a team successfully answers a problem, a balloon is posted at their station. There is a different colored balloon for every problem, which allows other teams to see how far their competitors are.

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Who’s responsible for CNU’s site?

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Site Director: Roberto A. Flores (pictured in the blue shirt)
Alternative Judge: Keith Perkins (pictured in the red shirt)
System Administrator: Raymond Koehl (pictured in the green shirt)

Also pictured: Department Chair, Anton Riedl, coaches from other universities and the coach for CNU’s teams, Aaron Koehl.

CNU’s Team Gamma:

There were three CNU teams: team Alpha, team Beta and team Gamma. Out of the 16 teams that competed at Hunter Creech, team Gamma placed 4th! David Baker, Dan Ackerman and Nigel Armstrong were the three CNU students in team Gamma, pictured below:

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I had the opportunity to talk to Nigel Armstrong about his experience with the ACM ICPC.

“I am a senior, but it’s only my third year at CNU. I’m majoring in Computer Engineering because I enjoy programming and building electronics, and this major falls right in the middle. This is my second year competing in the ACM ICPC for CNU. This year’s experience was amazing. It was a great way to apply the abstract concepts learned in class to challenging problems. Team Gamma had some basic strategies going in, some things we learned from past competitions. One important strategy we planned going in was to divide and conquer. One person immediately began coding the easiest problem, while someone else went off to devise a solution to a more difficult problem. This certainly allowed us to make the best use of the limited time given in the competition. Also, as a team, we planned who was best with what topics, and planned on assigning problems based on expertise in the competition. This year, the best time I had was in the last few minutes of the competition. We had correctly gotten two problems already and we were tantalizingly close on our third solution. With less than two minutes left in the competition we submitted four different solutions to the problem, hoping one would be correct. We never got an answer back from the judging server, but someone came and told us we had three points on the scoreboard. One of those last four submissions was the correct answer.”
CNU’s Volunteers:
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There were 10 volunteers at this year’s competition. They were all CNU students who helped out with the logistics of the competition. They helped with getting everyone’s registration, handing out prizes, set up and clean up. I also had the chance to interview a volunteer. Isaac Sutor is a freshman majoring in Computer Science, pictured on the right.
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“After hearing about the ACM ICPC, I first considered trying to join one of teams. However, I felt that I wouldn’t have enough time to fully commit to the competition. I was still really intrigued by it and still wanted to be a part of it somehow, so I decided to volunteer! After seeing how everything works, it’s definitely something that I would be interested in for next year. I found it awesome how all across the nation different teams were taking part in the competition. It was sort of a test of how the school stands against other universities in the nation. My favorite part of the day was seeing the balloons go up. It was interesting to see how quickly some teams got balloons compared to those that didn’t have any and how all of a sudden, those teams would get several at once. In addition, I also really enjoyed being able to meet new people from other departments in different universities. I got to talking to a few of the guys about how their department works and how it differs from ours.”

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