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Computer-Savvy High Schoolers Compete at the Spring’19 Battle of the Brains: HS Programming Competition

The Spring 2019 Battle of the Brains: High School Programming Competition was held on April 6th, with State Farm Insurance sponsoring the event. Registration for the Spring 2019 competition was free, thanks to the sponsorship. The contest drew more than 117 teams comprising approximately 390 high school students from all over North Texas, with teams coming from top high school schools in the DFW Metroplex, Abilene, Austin, and Houston.

The contest, which follows ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) style, is held twice a year on the UT Dallas campus with UT Dallas CS professors, Drs. Ivor Page and Jey Veerasamy, overseeing the contest. The problem set for this spring’s contest were crafted by some of the best UT Dallas Computer Science competitive programming team members: Darrin Wiley, An Q Nguyen, and Terrence Park. This was the first time that UT Dallas CS students crafted the entire event. All three had experienced competing in high school contests and were able to use that experience to craft a contest that they felt would challenge all levels of competitors while still being fun for everyone. As Wiley explained, “In order to decide on our problem set, we had a big document of all our suggested ideas and concepts we wanted to cover, and once we had about twice as many as we needed, we thinned them into a packet of our favorites. We then had a shared repository for the Latex of the problems, as well as test case generators and solutions for each one. Lastly, we made sure to have 2 to 3 solutions for every single problem, to ensure there were no issues with input and output data. We are very proud to say that our test data were perfect, and furthermore, any small issues within the problem descriptions were clarified quickly during contest time.” Clearly, even the organizers had a good time at the event. As Wiley went on to say, “Another fun fact – we in the judges’ room all predicted which problems would be solved in what order. It became a fun game, waiting for the next problem to be solved to see who would be correct. In the end, we were actually surprised with a few of the orders. We expected more solutions for Garden and less for Wind, as well as Stones being solved much earlier than it was. All in all, this contest was probably equally as fun for us to make and manage as it was for the high schoolers participating in it. I hope they had as good of a time as we did!”

UT Dallas CS Professors, Drs. Balaji Raghavachari and Sridhar Alagar were on hand to review and to fine-tune the complexity of the problems before the contest. During the contest, they assisted during the competition by servings as judges, moderating the contest, answering technical questions, proctoring and helping teams get the best from our computer systems. CS student, Max Xie, kept contest statistics. Dr. Veerasamy and his team of graduate students provided practical assistance with event logistics and coordination.

In addition to making this spring the first UT Dallas students-led contest, the CS Department also introduced hands-on workshops in the morning: Machine Learning with Python led by UT Dallas graduate student and CS Outreach instructor, Nikhil Pareek, and Android App Development led by Professor John Cole. Around 100 high school students attended the machine learning workshop and approximately 30 students attended Android App Design.

The contest began at 11:30 AM, with students subsequently adjourning to three separate computer labs to start the 30-minute practice portion of the contest. Immediately following was the main contest, which went for three hours. Teams of up to three high school students completed simultaneous novice and advanced contests. Every team was given the same eleven problems to solve for both levels and was allowed to use only one of the UT Dallas’ lab computers.  In order to solve problems, the students were allowed to use only Java 8.45, MinGW C++, MinGW C, Microsoft C/C++, or Python. The contest utilized HackerRank for semi-automatic judging. Teams are ranked according to the number of problems that they solve. In the event of a tie, the teams within the tied group will be ranked according to their Penalty Points, fewest comes highest.

You can access the contest problems by clicking here.

In the end, 82 teams solved at least one problem and 57 teams solved two or more problems. Below is the final list of winning teams for both the advanced and novice levels.

Advanced Category

1st Place – Richardson High School solved 8 problems

2nd Place – Cy Woods High School solved 8 problems

3rd Place – Coram Deo High School solved 5 problems

Novice Category

1st Place – Plano East High School solved 4 problems

2nd Place – Plano West High School solved 3 problems

3rd Place – Lovejoy High School solved 3 problems

The next Battle of the Brains: High School Programming Competition will be held next fall on October 29th at 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 2,800 bachelors-degree students, more than 1,000 master’s students, 190 Ph.D. students,  52 tenure-track faculty members, and 41 full-time senior lecturers, as of Fall 2018. 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.

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