Since its inception over 16-years ago, the Codeburners club has garnered over 500 members while under the supervision of Dr. Ivor Page, the club’s faculty supervisor and a UT Dallas Computer Science Professor of 35 years. The Codeburners is a group of computer science-minded students along with two UT Dallas CS faculty members, Drs. Ivor Page and Balaji Raghavachari, who regularly enjoy solving extremely challenging problems.
Many of the problems that club members work to solve have been previously used in the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) Regional and World Final contests. Currently, there are over 500 members on the Codeburners mailing list, and of those, approximately 30 students take part in the contests.
The club, which functions through group emails and weekly Friday meetings, allows students to solve weekly single problems and contests comprising 5 to 8 problems. During the week, Dr. Page sets just one weekly problem for the club to solve. The first student to send Dr. Page a correct solution before the deadline wins $10, which Dr. Page directly contributes. The club also hosts regional contests in which students can participate remotely. Both UT Dallas undergraduate students and master’s students can compete in the contests; however only undergraduates and first-year master’s students are eligible to compete in regional contests.
“These are really un-contests in that it is hard to determine exactly how long each team worked on a problem – they can start and stop at will over the weekend,” explains Dr. Page. “For this most recent un-contests, I will declare as winners those who solved the most problems. There were 6 problems, no one solved more than 3.” He continued on, “We will start having 3-hour and maybe a couple of 5-hour contests in August in order to select teams for the ACM ICPC Regional in early November.”
In the ACM ICPC Regional contests, there are typically 60 to 80 teams with three people per team, all from the top universities in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. The contests take place over Friday evening and all day Saturday. The actual contest lasts 5-hours. Ultimately, the world finals host approximately 120 teams.
During the fall and spring semesters, Drs. Page and Raghavachair gather on Friday evenings for 90 minutes to train from 12 to 25 students in advanced problem solving. The evening is dedicated to covering material not taught in regular CS classes, not even at the graduate level. Dr. Page notes that Codeburners members are highly sought after by employers from the top companies.
In 2006, Dr. Page and his team won the ACM ICPC National Competition and were invited to take part in the World Finals contest in 2007. The team of Codeburner students competed in Tokyo, Japan, against 84 other teams from across the world, and came in 14th place. Two other USA teams scored higher than the UT Dallas team. However, amongst all of the universities from both the North and South American continents, the UT Dallas team came in fifth place.
“No team from our 3-state region has ever placed anywhere near that high. A bill was passed in the Texas House of Representatives honoring our team that included Michelle Berger, Matthew Dempsky, and Jack Lindamood. A copy of the award hangs on the wall in the honors lounge, ECSS 4.412” notes Dr. Page.
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.