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Entries from December 2013

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

December 13th, 2013 · Comments

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.

 

 

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

December 10th, 2013 · Comments

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.

 

 

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

December 4th, 2013 · Comments

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!

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Journey through Regionals: Visual Tour of the ICPC @HU

December 2nd, 2013 · Comments

This fall, Battle of the Brains podcast host Yinka Adedeji traveled to Howard University in Washington, D.C., to give our viewers and listeners at home an inside look into the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest Mid-Atlantic Regionals competition.


IBM’s sponsorship commitment to the ICPC is part of a company-wide effort to advance the next generation of technology leaders and problem solvers who have combined skills of computing science and business management.  For more information, visit: http://www.ibm.com/university/acmcontest/ 


Today’s post is a photo essay of the contest. Be sure to check back over the next few weeks for interviews with team coaches, Howard’s Site Director and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Director.


                  The Contest was held on November 2, 2013, a beautiful day in D.C.


The twenty-three teams were vying for the first place trophy and a coveted trip to the World Finals in Ekaterinburg, Russia, next June.

And the winners were…

UMD2 from the University of Maryland!! Congrats!

Thanks to the hard-working contest volunteers!

 It was a great Mid-Atlantic Regionals contest!

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