Battle of the Brains

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A Pictorial History of the 2015 World Finals

May 26th, 2015

What an amazing ACM-ICPC World Finals in Marrakech! Congrats to ITMO, the World Champions and first team ever to solve all 13 problems. We'll be back next spring, but until then, here are some of our favorite photos from the event.
















Beautiful Marrakech, the World Finals Host City

May 4th, 2015

Next stop: Marrakech, Morocco! Get excited for the World Finals of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest, sponsored by IBM. Each year, the ACM-ICPC invites over one hundred teams and coaches from all over the globe to compete for the World’s Smartest Trophy. This year, the 39th annual Battle of the Brains will be held in the beautiful Marrakech, Morocco – a city filled with rich culture and gorgeous sites. Is there anything better than computing with a view?


With nearly one million citizens, Marrakech is the fourth largest city in Morocco. The red walls of the city, built in 1122-1123 AD, have given the city the nickname of the "Red City" or "Ochre City." Marrakesh grew rapidly and was soon established as a cultural, religious, and trading center. Like many Moroccan cities, Marrakech comprises an old fortified city packed with vendors and markets. In addition to Marrakech being one of the busiest cities in Africa that serves as a major economic center and tourist destination, visitors can look forward to gorgeous weather, as the average high temperature in May is 85˚F (29˚C). Be prepared, though, as daily highs can surge past 100 ˚F (37 ˚C)!


When planning your stay in Marrakech, hopefully you can take a day or two before or after the contest to explore! Be sure to consider the many attractions that make this destination such an exceptionally diverse landmark. First, get ready to tour Jemaa el-Fnaa Square! This place is known worldwide for being the core of the city’s activity. Next on the list is the Marrakesh Souk, the largest open-air market in Morocco. There is so much more to check out like renowned gardens, stunning city walls and gates, palaces, mosques and more. 


Whether you are interested in Marrakech’s delicious food, incredible architecture, famous markets, or really just exploring the land, we promise there is something for everyone to love. Check out a list of optional World Finals excursions here! We hope you’re as excited for the World Finals as we are! See you in Marrakech in less than two weeks!

Get Ready for the World Finals with ICPC Deputy Executive Director Jeff Donahoo

April 28th, 2015

It's hard to believe, but the ACM-ICPC World Finals in Marrakech, Morocco, are just three weeks away! To help set the stage for the event, "Battle of the Brains" host Chas Kurtz sat down with Jeff Donahoo, ICPC Deputy Executive Director. Their conversation covers everything from event activities to helpful advice for competitors as they make their final preparations for the contest. 

Listen Now:

InterConnect 2015 Keynote Presentations

April 22nd, 2015

Are you a programmer interested in Watson? Or an ICPC 2015 contestant intrigued by all of the possibilities offered by cloud computing? Or even just a tech enthusiast looking to broaden your knowledge?

If you’re reading this, odds are good that you’ve answered yes to at least one of those questions, so the videos below will certainly be right up your alley.

In February, IBM hosted its signature cloud and mobile conference, InterConnect 2015. The following thirteen keynote presentations were among the event highlights. If you couldn’t make it to Vegas for the conference, sit back and enjoy:

World Finals Preview with Jeff Donahoo

June 10th, 2014

Why was Ekaterinburg selected as this year’s World Finals host city? How can ICPC fans who can’t make it to Ekaterinburg follow the contest? What exciting activities are on tap for the World Finalists? Jeff Donahoo, ICPC Deputy Executive Director, shares answers to these questions and more in this pre-World Finals podcast with "Battle of the Brains" host Chas Kurtz.


Listen Now:

A Conversation with Alain Azagury, IBM’s New ACM-ICPC Sponorship Executive

May 22nd, 2014

"Battle of the Brains" host Chas Kurtz sits down with Alain Azagury, IBM's new ACM-ICPC Sponsorship Executive. Azagury, who also serves as Director of IBM Software Group Technical Strategy and is a member of IBM Academy, discusses his career, Watson and this year's contest. Azagury1.jpg

Listen Now:

Ekaterinburg at a Glance

May 7th, 2014

Guest Post by

We are thrilled to have our friends at share some background information about Ekaterinburg, the vibrant host city of ICPC 2014.


Yekaterinburg, alternatively romanized as Ekaterinburg, was named after Tsar Peter the Great’s wife Catherine I. Between 1924 and 1991, the city was named Sverdlovsk after Yakov Sverdlov, the Communist party leader. The region is still officially known as Sverdlovsk Oblast.  

The city was founded in 1723 by Vasily Tatishchev, a Russian statesman and historian, and Georg Villim de Gennin (originally, Wilhelm de Hennin), a military officer and engineer, who was, according to different sources, either a German or Dutch.  

Officially, it is the fourth-largest city in Russia after Moscow, St.Petersburg, and Novosibirsk.


Yekat is the first city in Asia and the last city in Europe, which makes it equally attractive to international companies and tourists. Since its foundation, the city has seen lots of historic events on its way to the 21st century.

In Yekaterinburg, history and modern life blend. The Romanov places, the Russian Constructivist styles of architecture, parks, churches and monasteries – every day may be different, just plan your trip carefully.



If you travel alone or with your family, Yekaterinburg has a lot of amusements to choose from. The city is famous for its theatres and music halls, museums and art galleries.  Enjoy a wide range of amusements: bars and pubs, jazz and techno clubs.


Because of long-standing contacts with Asian people and nations from the Caucasus mountains, the Ural region may offer food to please anyone’s taste buds. You will find quite a few German, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Serbian, Syrian, Georgian cafés and restaurants. Would you like to boast to your friends how you ate borsch and drank vodka in Russia? Visit Russian and Ukrainian restaurants. We guarantee that you will find dishes to your taste.  

Yekaterinburg is a fast growing megapolis, where history and modern life blend seamlessly.

Journey through Regionals: Interview with Dr. Legand Burge, Howard University ACM-ICPC Site Director

December 13th, 2013

IBM offers colleges and universities access to the latest advances in analytics technology and business industry expertise. IBM’s goal through programs like the ACM-ICPC, is to inspire the next generation of business leaders to think differently about how technology can be used to transform business and redefine industries.


ACM-ICPC Regional qualifying contests are already underway in the United States and will continue through the rest of the month. Following the regional rounds, only 18 to 20 United States universities will be a part of the 120 elite three-person teams from around the world to advance to the World Finals. The final contest will take place June 22-26, 2014, and will be hosted by Ural Federal University in Ekaterinburg, Russia.   

Through all of the hustle and bustle, Dr. Legand Burge, Howard University ACM-ICPC Site Director, took a break to share his insights on the ACM-ICPC and what it takes to run a successful Regionals contest.

Legand Burge, ACM-ICPC Site Director and Howard University Chair of the Systems and Computer Science Department

Adedeji: How long have you been involved with the ACM-ICPC and what are your major roles and responsibilities?

Burge: I’ve been involved in the ACM-ICPC since the late ‘80’s when I was an undergraduate student at Howard University. We have been hosting the competition here at Howard for over 40 years. As site director, I coordinate everything from making sure all teams are registered to ensuring all of the machines have the appropriate compilers or editors for the tools that the students use to write programs.

Adedeji: Could you tell us a little bit about some of the biggest surprises and challenges that you face with coordinating a competition of this caliber?

Burge: The main problems that every site director has is just making sure that the system stays up and running.  You’re talking about several computers and the network connection and everybody must be tuned to the same clock. We all have to stay on time.  When one site goes down, it causes the ripple effect within the entire region.  One of our major challenges is making sure that all the systems stay up.  Here at Howard, we do thorough testing, so we feel comfortable the day of. 

Adedeji: How can students here in the region get involved in the competition?

Burge: Most universities hold local programming competitions through their local chapters of the ACM.  From there, students are ranked and put together a top team. They open these local competitions not just for computer science students, but for any student in any major.  You can even have a graduate student on your team.  I think the main thing is if you’re interested, you should go to the chair of the computer science department and inquire about an upcoming programming competition. 

Adedeji: Thank you so much for your time! I will let you get back to running the show here today.



Journey through Regionals: Interview with Morgan State University’s Coaches

December 10th, 2013

The ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest is no stranger to growth. Since IBM became sponsor in 1997, ICPC participation has increased by more than 1100%. This year, 29,479 of the finest students in computing disciplines from 2,322 universities from 91 countries on six continents participated.


The coaches of Morgan State University, long-time ACM-ICPC competitors, chat with us about their growing program and share a few words of wisdom they left their team with before the competition.

From left to right: Fitzroy Nembhard, Morgan State University faculty;  Vojislan Stojkovic, Morgan State University Associate Professor; William L. Lupton, Morgan State University Associate Professor; Ashish Parajuli, Morgan State University faculty


Adedeji: Could you tell us about your team?

Stojkovic: I am one of four coaches for Morgan State University. We have had a great increase of students in the last 20 years so we have two teams competing.  We have a great community of 32 students and they are some of the smartest people in the world. 

Lupton: I work in the computer science department at Morgan State University.  Participating in this contest is part of our program to expose students to what the real world is like. It is one of several outings we take our students on to broaden their experiences, so they can become employees of great companies like IBM.

Adedeji: I’m sure you’ve been helping them prepare for months. What type of materials and problem sets did you guys work on?

Stojkovic: We have a few talks each week about programming contests.  You have to understand the most important thing is to understand the problem. After that you must map the problem and understand the right structures and recognize that for most of the problems they don’t need advanced structures.  You don’t need pointers or functions.  You have to know just basic one dimensional and two dimensional rays.  That’s it.

Adedeji: What are the roles of the participants on the team?

Stojkovic: Each team member is briefed in a similar fashion. However, each role depends on the mix of the team and each personality. One team has students with similar skills, enabling them to work well together. The other team is very individual, so everyone has to solve one different problem. We think that they can use their ability to work together to get the job done. The most important thing will be how to recognize what problems to solve.

Adedeji: What are some of the words of wisdom that you shared with your students before coming here today?

Nembhard: The team members are fired up and they simply came to win. We encouraged them to not overthink the problems and to think through what’s asked of them and try to use the simple data structures to provide the solution that is needed. The team that solves the problems the fastest and provides the solution to the problem will win. We told them not to focus too much on the complexities of the problem but rather the algorithms that will get them to the solution. With that, they should be able to relax and take their time while also solving the problem. The more relaxed one is, the better one will be able to think through a problem and come up with a correct solution.  We know they are good programmers and we expect them to do well. 

Adedeji: Thank you for sharing that great advice. I’m sure the ICPC participants are keeping all of those gems in mind for World Finals.



Journey through Regionals: Interview with Zach Leibowitz, George Mason University Head Coach

December 4th, 2013

According to the IBM Tech Trends report, only 1 in 10 organizations have the skills they need to benefit from advanced technologies such as cloud. Innovation, growth, and the ability to serve clients is at risk. IBM is taking significant steps to shrink this gap with sweeping changes to its skills programs. With additions like no charge software, curriculum and learning resources for universities, professors can bring the latest enterprise technology into their classroom. IBM is providing tutorials, how-to guides, case studies and ready to use curriculum in an effort to bring tomorrow tech leaders up to speed.


During the Mid-Atlantic Regionals competition at Howard University, podcast host Yinka Adedeji sat down with George Mason Head Coach Zach Leibowitz to discuss the school’s history with the ICPC and its preparation for the Regional contest.

George Mason Head Coach, Zach Liebowitz

Adedeji: Could you tell us a little about you and your team?

Leibowitz: I graduated from George Mason in 2012 and I will be graduating with my masters this semester. Traditionally it's just been one coach for us but recently we have started recruiting more people to help since our club is relatively new. We started back in 2008 and a few of the other graduate students who have been around for much longer have been helping the team out as well.

Adedeji: How did you prepare your team for this year’s regionals competition?

Leibowitz: For the most part, we focused on using old Mid-Atlantic contest problems. We kept going over the basic ideas of what is behind these problems before hand. More recently we have started to use related problems that may be a little simpler in scope to explain to the team first followed by a mixture of live coding and having code ready to go over with the newer people to help them understand the ideas so we can give them a slightly harder problem to try. It's been working reasonably well as far as getting people ready.

Adedeji: What words of wisdom did you share with your students before they came?

Leibowitz: Our team consists of one junior, one senior and two freshman, so we are just really focusing on the fact that they have more time to do better in the future. So I have encouraged them to think of this as practice and as a stepping stone for next year.

Adedeji: Great idea! Hopefully all of your team’s hard work pays off big next year. Thank you for your time!