Student Success

Programmers earn third-place finish at regional contest

A third-place finish led the way for a quartet of University of Lethbridge student teams that participated in the Rocky Mountain Regional Contest of the 2014 ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest recently.

The U of L sent four teams to the 53-team competition, with the group of Kai Fender, Brandon Fuller and Camara Lerner grabbing third place overall. The University of Calgary and the University of Alberta finished first and second respectively. Other teams represented Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Eastern Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Saskatchewan and New Mexico.

“The students have done a tremendous amount of preparation for this competition,” says University of Lethbridge associate professor of mathematics and computer science Dr. Howard Cheng, the team coach. “To get ready for this, some of the students were putting in eight hours per week under actual contest conditions.”

Students are given a series of complex, real-world problems that they must solve over a five-hour time period. Competitors race against the clock, and each other, in a battle of strategy, logic and mental endurance. Teammates collaborate to rank the difficulty of the problems, deduce the requirements, design test beds and write programs that solve the problems under the intense scrutiny of expert judges. For a well-versed computer science student, some of the problems require precision only. Others require a knowledge and understanding of advanced algorithms. Still others are simply too hard to solve – except, of course, for the world’s brightest problem-solvers.

The past two years saw a U of L team qualify for the world finals, and while this group fell just shy of making it to the international stage, Cheng is excited about their prospects moving forward.

“We had some of our senior students move on after last year, so we’re in a bit of a rebuilding phase,” says Cheng. “What was really exciting was that through this contest, we attracted interest from a number of high profile companies looking to recruit students. These events are excellent career-building opportunities for our students.”

The u of L’s other teams included the group of Lindsay Ablonczy, Chris Thomas and Justin Were (15th place); Matt Basaraba, Lukas Grasse and Marko Ilievski (19th place); and Brandon Robertson, Soraj Seyed Mahmoud and Zackery Shortt (36th place).