CSE Team First in ACM North Central Regional Programming Contest

February 1, 2002
The Blue team from the University of Minnesota took an early lead in the North Central Regional ACM Programming Contest and led all the way, completing seven of eight problems. Only the University of Wisconsin team from Madison was close, finishing with six problems solved. No other team solved more than five. The contest director thought that two of the eight problems were too difficult for any team to solve.

How did they do so well? First year graduate student and CSE alumnus James Esser (Jimb), senior Jonathan Moon, and junior Elliot Olds are seasoned competitors. All three competed in the North Central Regional in November, 2001, at the University of Minnesota, Morris, where the University's teams placed twelfth and eighteenth in the region. The three have individually logged hours in the online competition TopCoder. Last spring Jimb was invited by TopCoder to compete in Boston as one of the top sixteen collegiate programmers in the country. They and the other three University teams attended seven 2-hour practice sessions before the contest.

Strategy is important in any competition, and the Blue team had a winning one that optimized their individual strengths. Jon and Elliot worked on solutions individually and then gave their solutions to Jimb to translate into code. On more difficult problems they worked together, but the division of labor allowed them to complete problems quickly.

The team is currently preparing for the international competition that will be held March 22-25 in Beverly Hills, California. There they will compete against sixty-nine teams representing 25 countries. Carl Sturtivant has joined the coaching staff to provide more expertise in algorithms. Despite the fact that Jimb has left Minnesota for a programming position in San Jose, the team is still practicing together. Given the division of labor, it is possible to run distributed practices. They are all excited about the opportunity to compete in this prestigious international competition.

-Bobbie Othmer

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