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EECS Team Wins Regional Programming Challenge

April 18, 2013

Participating in their first team programming competition, three University of Kansas students bested 30 teams from four states to win KU’s first regional programming title.

Two KU teams participated in the Central Plains programming competition, sponsored by the Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges (CCSC), on Saturday. All six students who attended the contest at Avila University in Kansas City, Mo., are from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).

The winning team of sophomores Ryan Scott and Alec White and freshman Parker Riley solved all five problems—the only team to do so—during the four-hour competition. They credit a divide-and-conquer strategy for their success. After reading through the problems, White started working to determine the highest possible score in a two-person coin game. Scott focused on finding “beautiful” words by removing letters from strings while Riley worked out the average number of moves to unlock a combination lock. The three regrouped periodically to assess progress and help one another.

Each member of the winning team received $100 cash prize, and they received a traveling plaque for KU’s Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) group to display for the next year.

(l to r) Parker Riley, Alec White, and Ryan Scott  show the plaque they received for the winning the Central Plains programming competition. They are the first KU team to win the regional title.
Parker Riley, Alec White, and Ryan Scott show the plaque they received for the winning the Central Plains programming competition. They are the first KU team to win the regional title.

“I did not know what to expect,” said Scott, a sophomore, about his first programming competition. “I thought we did really well. KU ACM is full of talented people who do well on their own and collaborate well with each other.”

The second team made up of senior Chris Hudson, sophomore Adam Smith, and freshman Aleksander Eskilson finished in 13th place.

With no Internet access and minimal printed materials, the students relied on their experience and one another. They credit weekly work sessions, put together by the KU ACM Competitive Programming group, in helping develop their programming and problem solving skills. The Competitive Programming group, chaired by Eskilson, sends out problems for members to work on and then meets to discuss them and other programming challenges. Eskilson alerted the group to the CCSC competition, and KU ACM paid the registration fees. 

The spring semester marked the return of a thriving KU ACM. Its Competitive Programming group held a KU Intramural ACM Programming Competition on April 6. Thirty-three students attempted to solve progressively harder questions for prizes, including a Macbook Air and iPad.

“We've spent the last year retooling ACM and the ACM Comp Prog group,” said Eskilson. “Now we're geared up to make new opportunities available, from involvement to recruitment. This semester has gone well for us, but we're excited to do even more."

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