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

Published: Nov. 12, 2001

Computer science students at the University of Colorado at Boulder will face off with students across the Rocky Mountain region this weekend in an all-out "battle of the brains" contest of logic, strategy and mental endurance.

About 150 students will participate on 50 teams in the Rocky Mountain Regional competition of the Association for Computing Machinery's International Collegiate Programming Contest. The competition, sponsored by IBM, is the oldest and largest programming contest in the world with 2,800 teams competing worldwide this fall.

The Rocky Mountain Regional will be held simultaneously at CU-Boulder and four other universities in Arizona, Montana, Utah and Canada. Twenty teams will compete at CU-Boulder's Engineering Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. A practice contest from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday will precede the competition.

The winning team from the Rocky Mountain Region will join 63 other regional winners in advancing to the World Finals, March 20-24 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Contest rules call for students to work in teams of three to solve eight complex, real-world problems within a five-hour period. 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 test and debug it for each problem. The team that solves the most problems in the shortest period of time wins. A 20-minute penalty is assessed for each incorrect answer submitted.

Among this year's contenders is Shane Brinkman-Davis, a CU-Boulder student who advanced to the programming contest's World Finals in Amsterdam as a junior two years ago.

"I've gotten a lot out of it over the years," said Brinkman-Davis, who is now a graduate student in computer science. "It tests your skills in working with a team and your ability to keep confident under pressure."

Assistant Professor Ken Anderson, who is coordinating this year's regional contest, said the competition fosters creativity, teamwork and innovation in writing software programs.