Computer science teams place first and third in competition

Computer science major Dan Benke from Rock Island, Illinois, and his teammates placed third in the International Collegiate Programming Contest on Nov. 3. 

Out of 13 teams from Lindenwood, Missouri S&T, Webster University and Mizzou, SIUE earned first and third place during the Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest on Nov. 3. 

Dennis Bouvier, an associate professor of computer science, said he is proud of the placements each team was in.

“I thought it was fabulous,” Bouvier said. “Those young men are bright individuals; good problem solvers and good programmers, and I think it is a good showing for SIUE and the computer science degree program that our graduates or soon-to-be graduates are as good as students from other programs in the area.”

The ICPC is a global competition that is broken down into multiple regions that is sponsored by the ACM, the professional organization for computer scientists. 

It is the largest and oldest programming competition in the world, and it brings in 10,000 participants from 3,000 universities from over 103 countries.

Senior computer science majors John Bentley and Zach Anderson, both from Edwardsville, along with Dane Johnson, from Algonquin, Illinois, made up the team that placed first in the championship.

Coming in third place were senior computer science majors Chris Krozel from Bolingbrook, Illinois, Sean Pohl, from Rock Island, Illinois, and Dan Benke, from Lake in the Hills, Illinois.

Benke said the team prepares by practicing programming problems. 

“You practice by getting a feel for algorithms and trying to express that in code,” Benke said.

Teams in the competition work on a series of computer programing problems using coding skills such as C++, Python and Java along with an understanding of algorithms, data structures and other fundamental computer science topics.

Each team is given 11 problems and must solve as many as possible in five hours. 

The teams are allowed to use one computer with no access to the internet and have limited online references that can be utilized.

The most challenging part of the competition for Anderson was the amount of problems given and the time limit.

“It’s a time-limited competition, and it is very difficult for most teams to complete all of the problems,” Anderson said. “The level of difficulty is designed to make it hard to get through all of the problems in the competition, so one of the more difficult aspects of the competition is prioritizing.”  

Bouvier said students are given problems they must solve before applying code.

“So, the students have to read the problem and understand it and then write a program that does the solution,” Bouvier said. “It is problem solving first and basic programming second.” 

Anderson said the most interesting part about the competition is doing code outside of a professional setting.

“In a professional environment everything is a lot more deliberative and there is a lot more forethought [and] planning involved, but with the competition there is also fun and enjoyment because you are not writing code that is going to be used to run servers or fly airplanes,” Anderson said. “It’s just sitting down, banging out code to solve a toy problem you’re never going to use again.”

Benke said outside of the contest, he enjoys hanging out with other computer science students and coding for fun.

“I think it is pretty fun to go, hang out, solve problems and put some of the things you learn into actual application,” Benke said.

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