Students compete in brain games

A group of UH students will compete in a regional ‘battle of the brains’ that may take them to China next year at the 34th annual Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest.

The competition will be held Friday and Saturday at Texas A&M University, but it is one of several contests that’ are held’ across the globe. There are about 100 regional competitions in 90 countries on six continents, and qualifying finalists will meet in February in Harbin, China.

The competition will consist of teams of three students challenged to use their programming skills and rely on their mental abilities to solve complex, real-world problems, with a five-hour deadline.

‘The ACM ICPC is a very challenging contest,’ UH team coach Binh Le said. ‘On average, there are less than two teams in a region that can go to the world finals round.’

The UH team is hoping to gain experience and isn’t focusing on awards.

‘In the past, UH has never won the regional contest, and we have not participated in the last three contests,’ Le said. ‘So the chance for UH going to China in February of next year is very low. However, to have a good result in the future, we need a long-term plan, and this contest is only the very first steps.’

By participating in this contest, Le said UH faces a big challenge. But the rewards will be big as well – the competition is designed to be an opportunity for schools to recruit young, talented programmers.

‘The students who participate in this competition are the best and the brightest in the world. They are the future of not only our industry but of the world. They are the kinds of people we want to hire,” said Doug Heintzman, director of strategy for IBM and sponsorship executive of the ACM ICPC, in the press release.

UH team member and mathematics junior Tri Nguyen’ said applying what the team is learned to problem solving does not come without hard work.

‘We have been training for the contest for about a month or two. In my opinion, to (succeed) in the contest, we not only need to learn all the algorithms but also need to know how to apply them in solving a problem,’ UH team member and mathematics junior Tri Nguyen said. ‘This takes practices and experiences. Moreover, since we only have one computer for three people, teamwork is also very important.

‘Even though our chance for the world final is not high, I am still looking to be placed in the top five teams, or at least top 10. This contest will be our chance to get the experience of a real contest.’

Computer science junior Kenny McGarvey is ready for the competition.

‘We are definitely excited about competing this weekend,’ McGarvey said. ‘Due to lack of experience, it will be a little tough to make it to the finals, but we will certainly try our best.’

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