Student Success

Programming team wins regional, again qualifies for world finals

A team of University of Lethbridge computer science and mathematics students has won the 2013 Rocky Mountain Regional Programming Contest, earning the right to compete at an international competition in Ekaterinburg, Russia in June, 2014.

Dr. Howard Cheng looks over the shoulders of his winning team, including (L to R) Darcy Best, Chris Martin and Farshad Barahimi.

The University of Lethbridge team of Farshad Barahimi (1st year, MSc Computer Science), Darcy Best (2nd year, MSc Mathematics) and Chris Martin (4th year, BSc Computer Science) bested 39 other teams representing schools from Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana, Alberta and Saskatchewan at the regional portion of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) contest. It is the first time a U of L team has won the regional competition.

Three other U of L teams participated at the event, which was held Friday and Saturday at the University of Alberta, and all finished in the top half of the competition.

Students are given a series of complex, real-world problems that they must solve over a five-hour time period. Competitors race against the clock, and each other, in a battle of strategy, logic and mental endurance. Teammates collaborate to rank the difficulty of the problems, deduce the requirements, design test beds, and write programs that solve the problems under the intense scrutiny of expert judges. For a well-versed computer science student, some of the problems require precision only. Others require a knowledge and understanding of advanced algorithms. Still others are simply too hard to solve – except, of course, for the world’s brightest problem-solvers.

This is the second year in a row that the U of L will be sending a team to the world finals. Associate professor of mathematics and computer science, Dr. Howard Cheng, and coach of the U of L programming teams, led a team to a second-place finish at last year’s regional competition (which included Best and Martin).

While the results speak to the talent of the U of L teams, Cheng says the students deserve credit for their hard work.

“They have all worked very hard for this,” says Cheng. “Our top team has been practicing close to 10 hours a week for the past few weeks, but even some of the other teams put in close to 7 hours a week, on top of all the assignments and midterms they have to worry about.”

This past year 29,479 contestants from 2,322 universities in 91 countries competed in regional competitions at over 300 sites worldwide. Only 120 teams from regional contests servicing universities worldwide will advance to the World Finals.

“The commitment of Dr. Cheng and the experience these students receive from an academic and international perspective is a reflection of the type of institution we have become,” says Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Dr. Andy Hakin. “We are very proud of the accomplishments and results our students achieve and, through the efforts of our faculty and staff, proud that we are able to offer these types of experiences to our students.”

The entire roster of U of L competitors includes Barahimi, Best, Martin, Brandon Fuller, Camara Lerner, Vince Weiler, Lindsay Ablonczy, Matt Basaraba, Kai Fender, Kyle Link, Chris Thomas and Justin Werre.