Published: Oct. 22, 2008

Some of the best and brightest computer science students in the Rocky Mountain region will face off Oct. 25 in the 33rd annual "battle of the brains" contest of logic, strategy and mental endurance at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The Association for Computing Machinery's International Collegiate Programming Contest, sponsored by IBM, is the oldest, largest and most prestigious programming contest in the world, with more than 6,000 teams from 1,821 universities competing in 83 countries this fall.

More than 150 students will participate on 52 teams in the Rocky Mountain Regional competition, which will be held simultaneously in Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Canada.

Eleven teams, including two from CU-Boulder, will compete on the Boulder campus. The contest will be held in the Engineering Center's computer science education labs, room ECCR 128 and adjoining rooms, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. A practice contest will precede the competition on Friday, starting at 7:30 p.m., allowing the participating teams to become familiar with the contest environment at CU.

The winning team from the Rocky Mountain Regional will be one of 100 regional winners advancing to the World Finals in Stockholm, Sweden, to be held April 18-22, 2009.

CU-Boulder Associate Professor Michael Main, site director for the Rocky Mountain Regional contest, said the competition offers a somewhat artificial setting. Contest rules call for students to work in teams of three to solve up to eight complex problems within a five-hour period, which is equivalent to completing a semester's worth of computer programming in one afternoon. Students collaborate with their teammates to write a software program, and test and debug it for each problem.

"Real programming doesn't happen this way, " said Main. But he agreed with others that the contest fosters creativity, teamwork and innovation -- and that a ready knowledge of known data structures and algorithms is a decided advantage.

The team that solves the most problems in the least amount of time wins. A 20-minute penalty is assessed for each incorrect answer.