Seniors John Calsbeek and Curt Van Wyk and junior Mark Haselhoff placed third in the North Central region of the Association for Computer Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest on Saturday Oct. 31. This came after winning a local competition hosted by Northwestern.
This regional contest was part of a worldwide competition also referred to as Battle of the Brains. NW hosted one of 16 sites in the North Central region made up of Iowa, Kansas, Manitoba, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, western Ontario and Wisconsin. A total of 203 three-person teams competed throughout the region.
NW was represented at the competition by seven teams. “Participation is through the roof,” said Mike Wallinga, instructor in computer science. “Our success last year definitely played a role in that.”
Last year, three NW students, Calsbeek, Van Wyk and ’09 graduate Ben Kester, competed in the world finals in Stockholm, Sweden, as a wildcard selection. NW was the smallest U.S. school to receive an invitation to the 100-team final last April.
Wallinga thinks NW has a fair chance of sending another team to the world finals this year since NW placed fourth in its region last year. “Placing third regionally, we’d like to think we have a decent chance at getting selected again,” Wallinga said. For now, all they can do is wait.
Calsbeek, Van Wyk and Haselhoff correctly answered seven of the 10 problems given to participants. Among NW’s seven teams, one team successfully answered two questions and two teams answered one question each.
“To have 21 students from a computer science department of our size wanting to participate, and to have over half of our teams answering a question correctly speaks well of our students and their abilities,” Wallinga said.
The competition tests participants’ ability in a different way than classes. “It’s different than the programming you do in class,” said two-time participant junior Evan Lundell. “In class, it’s more about the concepts. In the competition, they’re real life situations. You have to bring in knowledge from other areas.”
The Battle of the Brains is the largest and most prestigious computing competition in the world, with participants from 90 different countries around the globe. Teams are given one computer and five hours to solve real-world problems using open technology and advanced computing methods. The winning team is the one that solves the most problems in the fewest attempts within the least amount of time.