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Lifelong friends form programming team, win big

The Oklahoma Christian University programming team’s eyes are set set on the 2017-2018 competition season.

The team’s 11th place finish at the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest on Oct. 29 ended their attempts for a place at the world competition, but all three members of the team will return and are anticipating next season.

“We get one more year together,” senior Tom Hartnett said. “We’re hoping to start practicing this semester just so can we get some practice in. Why not?”

Joining Tom on the team is his brother, Jon, and senior Alex Edwards. All three members reside from McKinney, TX, and knew each other prior to their time at Oklahoma Christian.

“It works really well actually because we’ve been doing coding stuff on our own and as a team in the past,” Tom said. “We all have this team synergy and we’ve all worked with each other before.”

During competition, teams have five hours to solve as many problems as possible. Team members take different roles while problem solving. Tom works on algorithms, Edwards covers math while Jon is the coder for the team and types the solutions into the computer.

“It definitely requires team synergy because you can’t be fighting over the problems, and the algorithms you’re giving to the code — everyone has to understand what they mean,” Tom said. “There’s definitely a lot of teamwork that needs to be there or else you’re not going to do well.”

The team will take the remainder of this semester off, but will return to at least once-a-week practices in January.

“They release the past practice sets online,” Tom said. “We usually practice a set a week and work through as many problems as we can, and we’ll team up with Professor Leftwich and he’ll grade our answers and tell us how we did.”

Chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department Don Leftwich sponsors the team, monitors their practices and travels to competitions. All three members joined the team after Leftwich contacted them.

The team placed highest among Oklahoma universities at this season’s regional competition and second among undergraduate teams.

“During the competition, while you’re working, they keep your scores up for you to see, but the last hour they just turn them off basically,” Edwards said. “You have no idea where you’re going to place and how many problems you have to solve in that last hour to boost your score, so when we had that announced it was really cool and we were just really excited.”

The members are able to practice outside of their organized practice sessions. Classes and internships offer additional experience prior to competitions.

“It’s not that different from classes or jobs, it’s just more intense,” Jon said. “You kind of get used to it. We’re programming all of the time.”

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