A team of UC Irvine students are heading to Orlando, Florida, in May for the North American Championship of the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC), the oldest and largest programming contest in the world. ICPC lets college students, working in teams of three, tackle real-world problems under pressure to help them develop problem-solving, programming and teamwork skills. Only the top four schools from the ICPC Southern California Regional competition qualify to attend the championship, and the 2022-2023 qualifiers are UC San Diego, UCLA, the California Institute of Technology, and UCI.
UCI had five teams participating in the Southern California Regional competition: UCI Map, UCI Reduce, UCI Filter, UCI Petr and UCI Anteaters. All five finished in the top 30 of 60 teams, with UCI Map moving on to the championship.
Assistant Professor of Teaching Michael Shindler organized the teams, which are run through the ACM@UCI student club. The club meets twice a week, and members work to solve problems related to a certain topic, such as dynamic programming or greedy algorithms.
With support from the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS), members of the UCI Map team will be traveling to Florida:
- computer science freshman Elijah Huang,
- computer science junior Jerry Li, and
- computer science and math (double major) sophomore Thomas Neill.
“I’m looking forward to solving and discussing hard problems with students from other schools,” says Li, who serves as president of the ACM@UCI club. Neill, who serves as internal vice president of the club, is also looking forward to meeting other competitive programmers.
Huang compares the competition to another of his hobbies — rock climbing. “I climb best [when] I’m focusing my full attention on the next move,” he says. “It’s when people hesitate, believe the next move is too difficult, and realize the top is still so far away that they give up.” So he plans to take a step-by-step approach during the championship, sticking with what worked during the regional competition.
“Just like the way I climb, for the five contest hours, I focused solely on my next move, executing it and then refocusing on the next move. Contemplating the result would only stress me out and ironically worsen our outcome,” he says. “In accordance, we resisted the urge to see our rank for a few hours. As a result, we not only had fun but qualified for NAC!”
Fifty schools will compete in the North American Championship, which will take place at the University of Central Florida on May 25-30, 2023.
— Shani Murray