October 7, 2002

Student Wins Programming Competition

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Participants in the annual Association of Computer Science Undergraduate’s (ACSU) programming contest had the codes for success recently. On Sept. 29, Michael Connor ’04, an engineering student, gained recognition for being the first person in contest history — which has lasted almost a decade — to get all six problems correct as he prevailed over 21 other contestants.

The contest, judged on accuracy and speed, asked participants to solve six different programming problems. Connor solved all six problems in two hours and 10 minutes.


“I was surprised I did as well as I did,” Connor said.

Bill Barksdale ’05 captured second place by solving five problems in the least time.

The contest organizers, David Kempe grad and Martin Pal grad, said they were very impressed with this year’s contestants.

“The problems may have been a little easier this year,” Pal said.

Still, “Getting them all right is quite an achievement,” Kempe said.

All 22 participants received pizza and free t-shirts. Other prizes included an X-Box and a $50 gift certificate. The top performers from the contest will be invited to attend practices that determine placement on a team that represents Cornell at intercollegiate tournaments.

Two teams of three people each will represent Cornell at the Greater New York Regional Competition held at Columbia University. Out of approximately 40 schools, one winning team will proceed to the International Competition held in Beverly Hills, California.

Some students prepared for the contest by solving old problems that were available online. Other students, like Barksdale and Connor, had experience from competing on the Cornell team last year.

“I think the thing that really helped me was experience that let me get them done quickly,” Barksdale said. “The nature of the contest awards people who get the problems done the quickest.”

If the Cornell team wins at the regional competition, the team will compete at the international level for the fourth time in five years.

“I’m excited … about getting to go to Regionals,” Barksdale said. “It’s a nice opportunity to have and doesn’t look bad on a resume.”

Resumes are not the only benefit from this contest, according to Connor.

“It’s mostly fun but it does teach you things,” he said. “It does improve your coding skills.”

Kempe also believes students benefit from this contest.

“I think they learn a lot about seeing solutions fast and implementing them fast with a lot less error,” Kempe said.

This contest is held once each semester, and new competitors are always welcome. “I wish more people would come out,” Connor said. Students who are interested in competing should contact Pal or visit the contest website (www.cs.cornell.edu/kempe/contest) for more information.

Archived article by Eileen Soltes