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Computer science students compete, place at nationwide contest

Three Oklahoma Christian University computer science and programming students showed their talents at the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest on Oct. 29 at Abilene Christian University.

Oklahoma Christian students Alex Edwards, Jon Hartnett and Tom Hartnett comprised the team. Chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department Don Leftwich accompanied the team for the contest. The team finished 11th out of 67 in the competition and finished atop the leader-board of all Oklahoma competitors.

Leftwich said this contest is the top event for computer science students around the world to showcase their talents.

“Student teams compete in regional competitions throughout the world,” Leftwich said. “There are 13 regions in North America.  We participate in the South Central Region, which consists of all universities in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana. This past weekend 67 teams located at four different sites in our region competed, with the winning team moving on to the World Finals in Rapid City, SD. We went to the site hosted by Abilene Christian University.”

Leftwich said teams of three students were given 11 problems with the goal to solve as many problems in a five-hour time frame.

“The students must write a computer program that solves the stated problem and gives correct results for the judges input data,” Leftwich said. “If more than one team solves the same number of problems, ties are broken using elapsed time and penalties for submission of incorrect solutions.”

Leftwich said he was very proud of the three students, despite initially not knowing how they would fare against the big schools.

“Obviously, for a university of our size, its remarkable that we can compete on an even basis with teams from OU and Tulsa,” Leftwich said. “We have competed in the ACM-ICPC for many years and routinely have teams that place high in the open classification as well as the other specialized classifications.  We’re very proud of our students and the way they represent our university.”

Leftwich said he and the team plan on competing in the same competition next year, and hope to win the South Central Region and move on to the finals.

Edwards said he did not plan on competing in this competition at first.

“I joined the competition because the other two members of the team coxed me into joining,” Edwards said. “But, after competing, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity.  It was one of the most exciting, fun experiences I have had while programming. I was excited to dive into these problems with friends and work on this project as a team.”

Edwards said he has been actively computer programming for a long time.

“I have been using programming concepts since elementary school with LEGO Mindstorms and small robotics kits,” Edwards said. “I started learning Java in ninth grade.  I’ve been programming ever since, though my main purpose on the team was mathematical and logical support.”

Edwards said he is looking forward to other computer programming events that are coming up.

“I am on the robotics team this semester, and we will be competing in mid-November,” Edwards said. “Also, I will be competing in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition in December.  I also plan on competing in the programming competition over the next two years.”

Similar to Edwards, Jon Hartnett said he appreciated these competitions because of the ability to network .

“It is definitely an excellent resume-building experience,” Jon said. “After last year’s performance, Google contacted me about working for them after graduation. Employers want to see that students have not just plowed the same lane as every other student, but branched out with extracurricular or personal projects, and competitions like this one do exactly that.”

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