A 12-person group is split into four groups of three, and has to solve nine complex computer programming problems in a very short time. All the while, they are competing against more than 50 other teams from across North America as part of the Rocky Mountain region of the Association for Computing Machinery's (ACM) International Collegiate Programming Contest.
How did the University of Lethbridge group fare? Very well. Of the four teams in the competition from the U of L, one group took second place and three other teams landed in the middle third of the results – 23rd, 25th, and 29th place overall.
"Students have to apply what they learn in different courses, and some problems require knowledge of techniques or algorithms that are not taught in any course," says team advisor
Dr. Howard Cheng (mathematics and computer science). "These are taught during our regular practice sessions, where the teams spend several hours per week training for this contest."
The competition draws students from large and small colleges and universities throughout Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Eastern Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Mexico. The group received funding from the Faculty of Arts and Science as well as Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures to support the costs for participation.
Cheng says the contest requires logical thinking skills and precise implementation of their ideas.
"If their solution is incorrect for even one test case, it is considered wrong," he says.
The groups had limited time to complete a series of nine problems, which ranged from supposedly simple, to very complex.
"We had to figure out how to write code based on where the letter 't' appeared in a series of words," says Keilan Scholten, a third year mathematics and computer science student. "It seems simple, but we wound up using more than an hour and a half of our time allotment. The first six of our problems were done in just over two hours."
Among the problems, the group successfully created a ranking of teams for a soccer league, figured out the maximum number of climbers a piece of climbing rope can support and worked out a way to determine if packages of certain dimensions were the right size to be mailed.
Team group members included: (Team A) Darcy Best, Keilan Scholten, Hugh Ramp; (Team B) Jeremy Andrijancic, Johnny Boldt, Kim Wikkerink; (Team C) Mark Fischer, Mark Hunter, Fern Leavens; (Team D) Falcon Momot, Jason Racine and Fei Wang. Best (fourth year), Ramp (second year) and Scholten (third year) also finished third in the Alberta Collegiate Programming Contest, held in mid-October as a warm-up to the regional contest.
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