CU-Boulder Hosts 'Battle Of The Brains' Computer Programming Contest

October 20, 2005

Some of the best and brightest computer programmers in the Rocky Mountain region will face off Oct. 29 in another all-out "battle of the brains" contest of logic, strategy and mental endurance at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The 30th annual Association for Computing Machinery's International Collegiate Programming Contest, sponsored by IBM, is the oldest and largest programming contest in the world with more than 5,000 teams competing worldwide this fall.

More than 165 students will participate on 55 teams in the Rocky Mountain regional competition, which will be held simultaneously in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Canada. So far, 14 teams have registered to compete at CU-Boulder. The deadline to register is Oct. 21.

The contest will be held in room ECCS 128 of the Engineering Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 29. A practice contest will precede the competition on Oct. 28, starting at 7:30 p.m.

The winning team from the Rocky Mountain region will be one of 80 regional winners advancing to the World Finals to be held April 9-13, 2006, in San Antonio, Texas.

Assistant Professor John Black, site director for the CU-Boulder contest within the Rocky Mountain region, and author of one of this year's contest questions, said the competition has become increasingly competitive since he first participated as an undergraduate contestant in 1986. "Back then, no one took it seriously, but today, students -- especially those in other countries -- spend a lot of time training for it because it's so prestigious."

Contest rules call for students to work in teams of three to solve up to eight complex, real-world problems within a five-hour period, which is equivalent to completing a semester's worth of computer programming in one afternoon. Examples of past problems include finding the closest fire exit for every office on the floor of an office building, and determining which cards would best be discarded from a poker hand based on the value of the cards that remain in the deck.

Students collaborate with their teammates to write a software program, and then test and debug it for each problem. The team that solves the most problems in the least amount of time wins. A 20-minute penalty is assessed for each incorrect answer.

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