TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Russian Students Win Programming Contest

Russian Students Win Programming Contest

Matt Slagle (
Wed, 12 Apr 2006 22:32:54 -0500

By MATT SLAGLE, AP Technology Writer

A team of three students from Russia proved their brainy prowess
Wednesday, winning an academic competition in which they had just five
hours to solve perplexing computing puzzles such as how to connect
gears of a clock when given a specific shaft speed.

"I am pleased with our performance today. It feels pretty good," Igor
Kulkin, 21, said after his team from Saratov State University won the
2006 Association for Computing Machinery's International Collegiate
Programming Contest.

Working in teams of three, contestants in the 30th annual event had
five hours to solve 10 problems that would ordinarily take months to
complete. Saratov led the pack by solving six of them in the allotted

The questions were dizzyingly complex. Among the puzzlers, greatly
simplified here:

. Write a program that computes how the gears of a clock can be
connected with an hour and a minute hand, based on a provided input
shaft speed with a maximum of three gears per shaft.

. Create a program that can find the maximum numbers of degrees of
separation for a network of people.

. Develop a system to interconnect different nodes of a corporate
network in the cheapest possible way.

In addition to the champion's trophy, the first-place team members won
a $10,000 scholarship as well as computer gear from IBM Corp., the
event's main sponsor.

The awards were handed out during a Texas-themed presentation
Wednesday evening complete with stage hands who wore cowboy hats,
bandanas and blue jeans to help escort the winners.

There were three runner-up gold medal winners each winning $3,000: the
University of Twente in the Netherlands, Altai State Technical
University in Russia and Jagiellonian University of Krakow, Poland.

Three schools shared in $2,100 and a silver medal: the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, St. Petersburg State University in Russia and
China's Shanghai Jai Tong University.

Bronze medals and $1,050 in prize money went to Ufa State Technical
University of Aviation and Moscow State University, both in Russia, as
well as two Canadian schools: the University of Waterloo in Ontario
and the University of Alberta.

The recognition is considered the biggest reward, said Doug Heintzman,
director of IBM's Lotus division.

"They get bragging rights and they have on their resumes that they
were here," said Heintzman, who added that IBM has hired 80 contest
winners over the years. "Inside the head of one of those kids is a
cure for cancer or AIDS. It's sitting out there."

Winners were determined based on how many correct answers they submit
within the time limit. In the event of a tie, the schools were ranked
based on how many attempts they needed to submit the right answer.

Bill Poucher, the contest's executive director and a computer science
professor at Baylor University, the contest's administrative
headquarters, explained the difficulty of the problems this way: "When
was the last time you heard someone say 'I need a piece of software in
10 minutes?" he asked.

The contest, held earlier in the day in a circular assembly hall,
included spectator seating, walkways covered in artificial turf and
two overhead projection screens showing real-time scores.

Competitors huddled around glowing computer screens, chatted with
teammates and shuffled stacks of paper as they worked against the
looming deadline. With minutes to go, many stood up from their tables
with a mixed expression of satisfied exhaustion.

Adding to the hushed tension: As each team solved a problem, a colored
balloon rose above their table to let rivals and spectators know where
they stood.

For many, it was like a sporting event -- just with lines of computer
code instead of balls and nets.

"It's an intellectual competition, and any competition is a sport,"
said Andrew Lopatin, 25, a two-time past winner from St. Petersburg
State University in Russia and now a coach for that school's team.

On the Net:

Contest Web site:

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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