The Collegian
Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Students to compete in programming contest

Nine University of Richmond students are competing in one of the world's most prestigious computer programming contests this weekend at Christopher Newport University and George Washington University.

The 34th-annual IBM-sponsored Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest, or battle of the brains, is expected to draw tens of thousands of students from universities in approximately 90 countries on six continents.

One hundred regional champions will meet for the world championship Feb. 1-6, 2010 in Harbin, China. The university is part of the Midatlantic region. Two teams of three will compete at Christopher Newport University and one at George Washington University.

The competition consists of eight problems of varying degrees of difficulty. The teams have five hours to complete as many problems as possible, and the scoring is awarded based on the number of problems solved correctly and the time necessary to solve them. Each problem has a designated color balloon, which is tied to the teams' desks as they solve the problems.

"The easiest problems are ones that you recognize as a similar problem to one you've solved before," senior Matt Der said. "The hardest are the ones that are flat-out difficult to wrap your head around, and ones that have really convoluted input data.

"I love solving problems, teamwork, working under pressure and competing against other schools. It's a lot of fun representing U of R and proving to the big-name schools like Duke and UVA that we are a force to be reckoned with."

Last year one of the teams placed 11th in the region and in 2007 a team placed 10th. The Mid-atlantic region includes universities in Washington, D.C., Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. The teams do not often have formal practice, but Der and senior Erin Brady said teamwork had been an important part of strategy.

"Last year, we had one member of our team look through all the problems and try to figure out the basics of how to solve them, another member tackling one specific problem and trying to determine exactly what was necessary to get the correct solution and a third member coding the solutions," Brady said. "You have to be able to discuss ideas for a problem very quickly, because of the time constraint, but you also have to be willing to let others voice their ideas and not rush anything."

Brady said she hoped to place in the top three at the Christopher Newport site this year, and Der said his team hoped to be the site winners at George Washington and top 10 in the Mid-atlantic region.

"Each competition is different," said Barry Lawson, computer science professor and faculty sponsor of the teams alongside math and computer science Professor Lewis Barnett, "but I always come away with the same realization -- that we have some very talented, very bright students here at UR, comparable to the brightest students at other esteemed universities."

Contact staff writer Avril Lighty at

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