PULLMAN — A team of the WSU student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery won the site championship at the International Collegiate Programming Contest on Saturday, Nov. 7, at the University of Idaho.
“I’m very proud of our team,” said WSU faculty coach Carl Hauser. “It’s great that for three years in a row they’ve done the best in the Inland Northwest.”
The winning WSU team, Umlaut, consisted of senior computer science majors Jeremy Rehkop, Matthew Miller and Travis Gomez. Two other teams of WSU students competed. They include computer science students Spencer Thomason, Albert Lam, Jessica Taylor, Phillip Marshall and Keiichiro Seto.
Scores are based on solving the most problems in the fewest attempts in the least cumulative time. WSU’s winning team solved five problems in five hours for a score of 358. This score put WSU in 16th place in the region, which is a significant improvement from last year’s 24th. WSU’s score was high enough to make them the site championships for the third straight year.
In this international contest, WSU is part of the Pacific Northwest region in North America. The region consists of about 80 teams that compete at five different sites. In the international contest at the University of Idaho site, WSU competed against UI, Gonzaga, Whitworth and EWU.
The competition is put on by the National Association for Computing Machinery and is sponsored by IBM. At the contest, teams of three students were challenged to use their programming skills and rely on their mental endurance to solve complex, real world problems under a grueling five-hour deadline. Tackling these problems is equivalent to completing a semester’s worth of computer programming in one afternoon.  The teams that solve the most problems in the least amount of time win.
One of the problems the team was challenged to solve involved designing a computer program that would allow the opponent to win a game of tic-tac-toe on a five-by-five board on his next turn. The game would already be in progress and the program would have to figure out which move would work for each possible circumstance.
To prepare for the contest, the teams met twice a week since the beginning of the semester, solving practice problems provided online from the competition providers and using their tools for solution submission and verification. Computer science graduate student Shariful Shaikot helped set up and organize practice problems and practice competitions. He also provided solution help and team strategies.
“The students that start participating in this competition are getting exposure to things that might not be covered in the classroom until later into their university coursework,” Hauser said. “There is nothing this grueling in their coursework.”