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How Does It Feel? Interview with ICPC 2012 World Champion Evgeny Kapun of Russia

June 6th, 2012

After an exciting week of technology, competition, and fun in Warsaw, Poland, St. Petersburg State University of Information Technology, Mechanics, and Optics (SPSU-ITMO) has emerged as champions of the 36th Annual IBM-Sponsored ACM ICPC. To end our 2011-2012 contest season, we found out first-hand from Evgeny Kapun of the SPSU-ITMO team what it’s like to win the World’s Smartest Trophy and what his future plans are.


Evgeny (second from left) proudly hoists the World's Smartest Trophy over his head at the ICPC Awards Ceremony

How did you get started in programming?

I started at the age of 7, when I got a computer and one of my parents' friends started to teach me. There were not many computers at that time in Russia, and parents shared computers to do work.  My first programming language was Visual Basic; then, at school, I started Pascal. I studied C++ and Java during my first year at SPSU-ITMO.

To be a good programmer, you need a very special vision and understanding of the world. You analyze the whole world as a logical system following certain laws, similar to a computer.

What do you study at SPSU-ITMO? Are you an undergraduate or a graduate student?

Our discipline is called 'Applied Math and Computer Science'. We study a number of disciplines like discrete mathematics, which is a theory for programming, and also math analysis.  I am now in my sixth grade of the University and nearing graduation.

I'm also working with Bertrand Meyer [a creator of Eiffel programming language and professor at SPSU-ITMO]. My goal is to develop a program that will help to check mistakes in all programs without a human having to do so. After graduating, I plan to enter a post-graduate/master’s course and continue to work on this topic during my post graduate course.

What kind of activities have you participated in that helped prepare you for the IBM-Sponsored ACM ICPC contest?

I participated in team programming contests at school, which are quite similar to ICPC in concept. I also participated in a number of Olympiads on mathematics and physics, including the Russian national finals of the Olympiad in Physics, in which I got second prize at the age of 15. All of that was very helpful in terms of preparation for ACM finals, and it was a great experience.  For this contest, we did two trainings a week, each of them is quite similar to real finals – even as long as five hours. In total, we spent around 15 hours of training a week.

How was your experience at ICPC 2012?  Was this the first time you advanced to the finals?

This was the second time I’ve participated in the World Finals, and both times my teams won medals.  The level of competition this year was very high.  Poland also took the championship very seriously, and this year’s contest was filled with many great cultural and educational programs.  I remember arriving and seeing the ICPC banner on the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw. Overall, I enjoyed it.


Thanks for another great contest season!  Keep checking back for more interviews and updates on our podcast.  You can also stay up-to-date with us on Twitter @BrainBattleICPC.

Do you have what it takes to be World Finals champion? This year’s ICPC may be over, but you can start forming a team for regional competitions this coming fall.  Not a student?  No problem.  There are also many volunteer opportunities, such as judging and on-site IT support.  Visit the ACM ICPC website for more information on how you can get involved.

[Photo credit: David Hill, ICPCDigital]