BU welcomes annual international computer programming contest

By Adam Harris


Every year, students from universities all over the world visit the Baylor Web domain to register for an international contest in technology.

Baylor has been the headquarters for the International Collegiate Programming Contest since 1976. The event gives students from six continents a chance to compete by solving real-world computer science problems.

Dr. Bill Poucher, professor of computer sciences and director of the contest, said problems in the past have included things such as writing programs in a language he called “weblish.” He said that the language is “easier than English,” and is a sort of technical English that works for the global contest. The program writing in the past has focused on real-world problems, from efficiently managing energy in dorms or housing complexes to creating a paper route. The contestants develop a program to find a solution.

Poucher said the competitors are like composers and the computers are their musicians.

More than 1,100 teams have registered to participate in the global event. Students, coached by a faculty member from their university, compete in teams of three in the worldwide competition.

Teams must compete in their regional contest before finalists are decided. The winning team from each region advances to the world finals, which last from June 30 to July 4, 2013, and are held in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Greg Hamerly, associate professor of computer science, said the field is narrowed down to roughly 110 teams, following regional contests.

Hamerly, who made it to the finals twice while in graduate school at the University of California in San Diego, said the competition is part of the reason he came to Baylor.

“It was awesome. That’s why I’m working with it now,” Hamerly said.

Baylor will compete in the south-central U.S. regional competition over the weekend of Oct. 19 – 20. Universities in Oklahoma and Louisiana will compete in this regional at the same time in a contest that lasts for more than five hours. The Baylor teams will compete from noon to 5 p.m. Oct. 20 in 109 Rogers Engineering and Computer Science Building.

Baylor is the only university from Texas that has won the international competition.

The International Collegiate Programming Contest is open to any students who are enrolled in any degree plan at a university. Winners, as well as finalists, have gone on to work for major corporations such as Google and Disney. Poucher said many corporations take the opportunity to look at the next group that will be entering the field of technology, because the competition allows students to rise above their peers by giving participants an experience that others entering the world of computer science haven’t had.

“We accelerate growth by creating opportunity for tomorrow’s opportunity makers,” Poucher said. “We write the music that keeps civilization going globally.”