International Programming Competition Pays Off in Experience

Created: April 10, 2014
Last Updated: January 17, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Nov. 12, 2013)—Three Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) students have blazed a trail in the realm of computer programming they hope future students will be eager to follow.

Seniors Kyle Karwatski of Uniontown, Pa. and Christopher Wright of Washington, Pa., and junior Shiv Upadhyay of Bridgeville, Pa. became the first team from W&J ever to compete in an international computer programming competition.

The group was one of 126 three-person teams to compete in the East Central North American Region of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio on Nov. 9.

The ACM Contest is designed to test the skills of the most talented student programmers. Typically, most teams—including this year’s W&J team—corrently solve only one or two of nine given programming problems. Team advisor Amanda Holland-Minkley, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of Computing and Information Studies (CIS) at W&J, said no teams got all nine questions correct and the highest score was seven of nine.

Standings were only released for the top 10 teams, which will advance to the ACM International Collegiate Programming World Finals, to be held next summer in Ekaterinburg, Russian Federation.

The team does not know its official standing yet, but Holland-Minkley said she’s proud of the students’ accomplishment, especially considering the level of competition they faced. The Eastern Region includes teams of undergraduate and graduate students from about 60 colleges and universities in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and parts of Canada. Some schools send multiple teams.

“The team and I feel like we learned a ton about how the contest actually works in practice that you can’t see just from reading the rules, and we definitely want to apply it next year,” she said. “It was a great experience and I’m really proud of the guys. They held their own against a really hard set of competitors.”

Karwatski, Wright and Upadhyay were the first team of W&J students ever to compete at this level, but they don’t plan to be the last.
Holland-Minkley said the team learned a lot about strategy after this experience, and she’s looking forward to next year, when a new team can practice with the guidance of competition veterans.

“There were some simple timing and approach mistakes the team made that have nothing to do with programming ability that we can fix,” Holland-Minkley said. “The exciting thing is that we have Shiv available next year still as a senior, and Chris and Kyle are both hoping to come back and be alumni coaches.”

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