Northwestern continues to uphold academic prestige as NW seniors Alayna Carlson, a mathematics major; Ansley Griess, a computer science major; and Caleb Kester, a computer information systems major, represent the winning team at the NW site of the North American Central regional contest of Battle of the Brains on Nov. 6, placing 57th of the competition’s 225 total.
Taking first, the trio is one of six NW teams to participate in the contest. Junior Aaron Appel, junior Joel Koster and senior Evan Lundell together placed second. Sophomores Toben Archer, Michael Gutsche and Seth Herning took fourth in the regional competition, which consisted of Augustana College, Dordt College, Morningside College, Northwestern College and the University of South Dakota.
“Because it is our major, it has become a passion,” Joel Koster said when asked what his team’s incentive is behind participating. “We do it because we love it.”
Teams are given five hours to accomplish the grueling task of solving as many of nine real-life problems as quickly as possible. The students scrutinize, design and exhibit functioning software systems to be critiqued by expert judges. In describing one problem, which involved developing a texting system, Koster explained, “we translated taps of keys into text.”
Similar problems involved simulating a dice game such as Yahtzee.
After spending all five hours on a single problem, students tend to get antsy. “I keep thinking about how I can still make it work,” Griess said of a problem still causing her angst.
The competition was definitely intense as teams ended up “throwing the keyboard around the last 30 minutes, yelling, ‘I got it! I got it!’” Koster said.
The international programming contest consists of about 22,000 students competing for one of 100 spots at the world contest in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Feb. 27–March 4. Though no NW teams will advance, they competed with the best.