It took six local programming contests and eight Friday evening training sessions during the fall 2015 semester to train and select four teams who would compete for UT Dallas at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) Regional Programming Contest. About sixty teams competed at this year’s South Central Regional Contest, including teams from all the major ‘Division One football universities’. These teams, from major universities in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, compete each fall for a chance to represent their universities in the World Finals Contest the following spring.
Dr. Ivor Page is currently the faculty sponsor and advisor/coach to the UT Dallas programming teams. Last year, UT Dallas freshmen teams placed fourth and fifth in the ACM ICPC Regional Contest. During Dr. Page’s training sessions, he and his teams worked diligently to master algorithms that are typically beyond the normal Computer Science curricula, as well as solve old problems from challenging regional contests. In the past, UT Dallas teams have done well in nation-wide contests. During these contests, US teams are selected to compete in the World Finals. The UT Dallas Programming team was selected to compete based on their high standing in the 2014 Regional Contest.
On November 6th, the UT Dallas teams traveled to Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where the ACM ICPC Regional Programming contest was being held. The teams first competed in a ‘scripting contest’ on Friday evening – using scripting languages such as Pearl or Python. Dr. Page continues: “At 9am Saturday morning we were back at Baylor, first listening to a live feed from LSU in Baton Rouge of the contest rules, followed by a practice contest designed to check the equipment and software of the system to be used in the main contest. The main contest began at noon and lasted five hours.”
Dr. Page recounts the events of that day from a coaches’ perspective, “The coaches were gathered in one large room. Some graded papers, nearly all boasting about their teams. At 4pm, the scoreboards were frozen and neither the teams nor the coaches could see which problems the other teams had solved. At that point, the boasting in the coaches’ room took on a feeling of competition too. At 6pm, the results were announced. UT Dallas came in third, solving seven of the nine problems – the same seven problems that the first and second placed teams had solved. Rice had won and UT Austin came in second. Our other three teams placed 8th, 13th, and 31st, solving 6, 5, and 3 problems respectively.” Dr. Page explains how the contest handles ties during the contest, “Ties are broken by penalty points that accrue according to the number of attempts a team makes to solve a problem, and the final time of submission of each correct solution.”
Dr. Page and the teams graciously thanks all the coaches, the UT Dallas CS faculty members, and the UT Dallas CS department for their support. The teams will be competing again next year.
Two UT Dallas CS Students selected as two of the four finalists in the 2015 State Farm Coding Competition
Last October, two UT Dallas CS students competed in the National 2015 State Farm JAVA Coding Competition. The online competition drew 300 participating teams from more than 100 universities across the nation. Fahad Shaon, UT Dallas PhD CS student studying under Dr. Murat Kantarcioglu, and Terrence Park, freshmen in the UT Dallas CS department, both competed separately in the competition. Both students were selected as one of four finalists.
The online competition, which was separated into to separate rounds, went from 8pm to 11:59pm. During the preliminary round, the students were given a large dataset and a 32-unit test to pass. Various unit tests required the implementation of graph algorithms, such as Breadth-First search (BFS), Minimum Spanning Tree (MST), etc.
Shaon explained how he secured a spot in the final round and what the final round entailed for the competing coders. “I was able to pass 26 test cases to ensure a place in the final round. During the final round, we were given a large dataset of insurance policy information and our target was to find an interesting pattern in the dataset within an hour.” During the final round, Shaon generated interesting reports including, the number of accidents vs. insurance termination correlation, age vs. number of accident correlation, and premium amount vs. insurance termination correlation. These were just a few of the many reports that Fahad was able to generate during the final round.
Shaon notes, “Even though I wasn’t able to win the final, it was a valuable learning experience for me. I would like to thank Dr. Murat Kantarcioglu for encouraging me to participate in the competition.”
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance sponsored this year’s competition. Registration for the 2016 State Farm Coding Competition will be open April 2016.
About the UT Dallas Computer Science Department
The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 1,600 bachelor’s-degree students, more than 1,100 master’s students, 160 PhD students, and 80 faculty members, as of Fall 2015. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.