Computer science majors ‘battle’ with other ‘brains’

Kate Carrubba

Villanova students competed in

an IBM-sponsored “Battle of the

Brains” at Shippensburg University

on Oct. 27.

The competition, known as the

International Collegiate Programming

Contest, brought together the

brightest programming students

from the mid-Atlantic region as part

of a worldwide competition involving

6,500 teams from over 5,000


Villanova sent two teams to the

regional competition at Shippensburg

University, with a total of seven


Team 1, consisting of junior

captain Kory Kirk, juniors Minh

Kinh Tran and Stephen Walter and

sophomore Alex Palkovic, solved no

problems and placed in a 49-way

tie for 89th place, along with teams

from Drexel and Swarthmore.

Team 2 solved one problem in

three hours thanks to the efforts

of juniors Richard Banister and

captain Graham Hill and freshman

Casey Burkhardt.

The second team finished with

an overall ranking of 81 out of 137

regional teams at the competition.

All seven of Villanova’s participants

are computer science majors.

Team Coach Dr. Frank Klassner

described the competition as an

“informative learning experience,”

especially as five of the seven participants

had never before competed

in the contest.

He put the results into perspective

by noting that the top three

teams, who will advance to the next

round, only managed to solve four

out of eight problems within a fivehour

time limit.

Klassner also said that all of the

students on this year’s teams are

willing and eager to return to the

competition next year and improve

on their results.

The top five teams from each

of 35 regional competitions will

move on to the world programming

championships in Banff Springs in

Alberta, Canada, held from April

6-10, 2008.

At the championships, the participants

will be able to see leading

researchers give demonstrations, as

well as mingle with other students

from all corners of the world who

are interested in the same fields

of study.

The top teams at the championships

will receive scholarships, as

well as IBM ThinkPad computers.

Additionally, they also often receive

high honors at home.

The competition is a transformative

experience on many levels for

the students – they are exposed to

top professionals and researchers as

well as employers.

Notably, the contest is a testament

to a student’s skill as a potential


The teams consist of college students

who work together to solve

grueling real-world programming

problems in the allotted five-hour


The students are typically physics,

mathematics or computer science

majors, though with more

and more universities featuring an

integrated curriculum that combines

all disciplines, other majors such as

pre-medical studies, business and

civil engineering have been seen at

the contest as well.

Students must use their problem

solving, teamwork and analytical

skills to solve complex problems

such as how to configure an airport

terminal in order to maximize efficiency.

The contest is sponsored by

IBM, which has been involved since

1997. Doug Heintzman, sponsorship

executive of the ICPC, listed four

reasons why the contest is worthy

of support.

Among these reasons are that

it provides a world platform for

students; it allows creative young

people to create the next generation

of new idea; creates a high quality

recruiting vehicle for potential candidates;

and provides a chance for

IBM to use its success to give back

to the world. The company intends

to use the ever-changing new technology

in order to alleviate social


Heintzman described IBM’s sponsorship

as “the right thing to do.”