Budding Programmers to Represent Mason in International Competition

Posted: April 1, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Rey Banks

George Mason seniors Alan Baldwin, Brian Hrolenok, and Daniel Pryor will compete at the world finals of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) in Shanghai, China, next week. A prestigious competition for blooming programmers, this year’s regional competitions, sponsored by IBM, drew more than 3,150 teams from 71 countries around the world, with only 78 teams earning coveted spots at the 2005 World Finals, April 3-7. Mason’s team is one of only 19 U.S. groups scheduled to compete in the finals, attempting to bring the trophy home to the United States for the first time since 1997.

The teams are challenged with solving eight or more complex, real-world programming problems—equal to a semester’s worth of computer programming curriculum—in under five hours. Huddled around a single computer, competitors race against the clock in a battle of logic, strategy, and mental endurance. The team solving the most problems correctly in the least amount of time emerges as the international champion and secures bragging rights to the “world’s smartest trophy.”

Student programmers
George Mason seniors Alan Baldwin,

Brian Hrolenok, and Daniel Pryor at the

ACM regional competition.

Baldwin and Hrolenok, computer science majors, and Daniel Pryor, math major, have been rigorously exercising their mental muscles to prepare for the competition for months. In November, three Mason teams competed in the ACM Mid-Atlantic Regional programming contest. Coached by Billy Wagner, a Mason computer science graduate student, the students prepared for the competition by solving problems ranging from designing networks and databases to creating quilting problems and balancing a checkbook.

Computer Science Faculty Advisor Liz White couldn’t be more proud of her students and their coach. “I’m particularly proud of the fact that two of our teams landed in the top of the heap this year. Our second-place team finished 27th out of the 150 teams,” says White. “This is a great opportunity for the students.”

Students who participate in this event are heavily recruited by IBM for jobs after they graduate, even if they don’t win the contest and the $15,000 prize. Also, George Mason’s participation puts the university in the same category as other academic heavy hitters, such as Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University, and MIT-past winners of the contest.

The team, chaperoned by Wagner, will leave for Shanghai on April 4. The actual contest date is April 6, and they will head back home the following day. For more information on ACM, click here, and to learn more about the IBM-sponsored contest, visit ICPC.

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