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29th ACM Intl. Programming Contest Results 436

mathinator writes "The 29th ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest World Finals, hosted by China's Shanghai Jiao Tong University, are now over and the results are in. Congratulations to the top 4 teams who will be walking away with gold medals. They are Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Moscow State University, St. Petersburg Institute of Optics and Mechanics, and Canada's University of Waterloo (coming in at 1, 2, 3, 4 respectively. The top 4 get gold medals). Regional champions are: University of Waterloo, Canada (North America); Moscow State University, Russia (Europe); University of Cape Town, South Africa, (Africa and the Middle East); Instituto Tecnologico de Aeronautica, Brazil (Latin America); Shanghai Jiaotong University, China (Asia); and University of New South Wales, Australia (South Pacific)."
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29th ACM Intl. Programming Contest Results

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  • Bottom Line ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by foobsr ( 693224 ) *
    More outsourcing to come in areas more sophisticated than in codemonkeydom.

    CC.
  • by HeelToe ( 615905 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @10:59AM (#12165427) Homepage
    Not sure if it's surprising or not.

    Is it the lack of quality programs these days or lack of interest on the part of highly talented students to participate?
    • by joshdick ( 619079 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:06AM (#12165475) Homepage
      You shouldn't judge programmers of CS curricula based on these competitions. The problems are all very academic in nature rather than practical (I've competed in the ACM for two years now). Also, some schools spend all year preparing for the competition, offering classes in it, whereas other schools don't put quite that much into it.

      Furthermore, the results of a single competition is hardly any reason to pass judgement on CS students nationwide.
      • Furthermore, the results of a single competition is hardly any reason to pass judgement on CS students nationwide.

        I'll grant you that, for sure.

        When I was in CS, it seemed like the brightest and most talented thinker/programmer students did these competitions, at least in my program.

        This was a few years back when Ultrix was the required OS for everything in CS. Nowadays I hear they just use Windows. :(
      • by rbarreira ( 836272 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:11AM (#12165532) Homepage
        I mostly agree with what you say, but I think those contests are partly a good indicator of how good a programmer is. There are 2/3 components which are necessary to win a competition like this:

        - Knowing how to program fast and flawlessly
        - Knowing a lot of data structures, and knowning how to choose the right one for a problem (mainly trees, tries, hash tables, vectors, linked lists, graphs and ocasionally special data structures for geometrical data)
        - Knowing how to solve some classical problems, mainly in dynamic programming and graphs, where a lot of problems are used again and again in those contests (though with variations or presented in an obsfucated way).

        I'd say that the first two are indicators of knowing how to program well. The third one is more discussible, since there are a lot of schools which prepare their contestants to know those algorithms by heart... I'm not saying they don't understand them, but that component alone doesn't show much ability to me :)
        • "Knowing how to program fast and flawlessly"

          Fast maybe, but flawlessly definitely not. The speed restraint of the competition causes participants to hack their way through their problems any way they can. Good programming practices go out the window immediately.

          "Knowing a lot of data structures"

          I'll give you that one.

          "Knowing how to solve some classical problems"

          Why memorize the answers to solved problems? Most students in the competitions I've been to don't worry about memorizing answers. We all just
          • Fast maybe, but flawlessly definitely not. The speed restraint of the competition causes participants to hack their way through their problems any way they can. Good programming practices go out the window immediately.

            Yes, flawlessly. Each wrong program you submit involves a penalty to your score, and you must have time to solve the OTHER problems. I didn't say the programs were very well made, that's not the objective of the contestants (though it can help in some cases). I didn't say anything about good
          • By the way, in the finals you can't take books with you, only something like 5 pages of printed material...
            • That is the same bullshit done in all academic testing today. I always use google or other electronic documentation when programming and why should I memorize every parameter list of every obscure function in a language? It is simply so far from practical use that you can not derive any information about real world performance of these students.
              • I don't think they restrict access to linux man pages and things like javadoc (for the unfortunate ones who use java on those contests and have to write dozens of lines in order to read the input)...

                But I agree that those restrictions are often stupid.
        • by drgonzo59 ( 747139 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @12:39PM (#12166465)
          It's like with any test. If you pass, the first thing it shows is that you can do _that_ particular test well. Of course the reason for the test is to show that you are knowledgeble in the whole domain that the test was compiled from, but that is a speculation. You are right, I can spend the whole year, doing nothing but learning all the algorithms that might show up on the exam, and practice to solve a common set of problem fast, sothen I migth do well on that contest, but I might still not do well in general in college or workplace.

          That said, I also happen to be from Russia, and I can say that in general education system there is more thorough and more focused on the science than here in US (I went to schools in US too). Here all schools seem to be doing is try to make students comfortable, they have a hundreds of clubs and activities for after school. Everyone and their little brother wants to play sports or play in the band first then study. Schools try to be fun, instead of trying to make student learn something usefull. I remember coming to this country and doing my sophomore grade in fairly good high school, but I had to take calculus with the graduating seniors and I remember tutoring them in math even though I was an average student at home in that subject.

      • I would say exactly the opposite. These problems are a lot more practical compared to what is teached on most universities considered to be good in CS.
        Ignoring the algorithms theory results is badly designed software that drives the demand on CPUs instead of being happy with low-end machinery at the same price.

        It was the dumb codemonkey problems which made best and most handsome team [baylor.edu] drop to 9th place :(
        (FYI, the guy you should be worshipping is the one standing)
    • I think that ACM contests in the US have more relaxed rules, so when those teams go to more serious contests, they don't do very well...

      I was in the south-western european contest myself, where the rules are similar to the ones used in the finals, but my team didn't get through :(
    • by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:07AM (#12165491)
      Lack of Mt. Dew puts US programers at a serious disadvantage.
    • Probably has more to do with students being inclined to compete in the various US-based ACM competitions rather than travel to China. Although everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon quickly, I don't see why a three-person team competing in some foreign programming contest should be representative of program quality or lack thereof in schools like MIT, CalTech, Carnegie Mellon, etc.
      • by wviperw ( 706068 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:34AM (#12165775) Homepage Journal
        Actually, this is the INTERNATIONAL Collegiate Programming Contest. The way it works is that each country is split up into regions. The first round consists of regionals and the qualifiers move to the final round where they compete against the top teams from other countries. So, in a sense, this *was* a US-based competition for the first round.
      • Probably has more to do with students being inclined to compete in the various US-based ACM competitions rather than travel to China.

        That's not true. The way the contest works is the world is broken up into regions. The people who place first and second at regionals (and occasionally a few honorable mentions) are allowed to move on to the international competition.

        Here are the regions for North America [baylor.edu], and here are the list of teams [baylor.edu] that went to compete in the international competition - 11 North Amer
    • Seems like the best US team was University of Illinois, ex aequo at the 17th position with 11 other teams.
    • The reason for this primarily consists in the fact that non-US countries not only care about this competition more but often put every last ounce of effort into preparing for the contest. You see, the only hope of many "foreign" students is doing well in this contest and therefore getting recognized, possibly guaranteeing them a well-paying US (or otherwise) job.
    • That's what seperated the teams that attended (all of which are excellent) from the teams that won.

      I can't speak for MIT or the other teams that went, but I have participated in the regional contests several times before, and for us it was something that we did in our spare time. Our only preperation was three local contests through-out the year and at most a couple days before each contest practicing problems. I'm sure that the US teams going to internationals a lot spend more time than that, but I don't
      • by gvc ( 167165 )
        "Or maybe I should just go to canada when I finally decide to go back to grad school :)"

        Please do. Grad school in Canada is a bit different from the U.S. We speak the same language, and we publish in the same journals and, for the most part, attend the same conferences. But we're a bit different. I hesitate to say "better" because I don't buy into the linear-ranking principle. Everybody wants to excel, but I think there's a bit more diversity in opinion here as to the meaning of "the best."
  • The contest is in virus form. If you have Internet Explorer, you will find the winners on your machine any time now. It's great that the whole world will be able to participate in this contest.
  • Attitude (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jkxx ( 739331 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:08AM (#12165498) Homepage Journal
    This doesn't really mean anything by itself. However, it's worth mentioning that the individual attitude is different in the rest of the world than it is in the U.S. (For example, the students at the Shanghai U. might be a bit more motivated to prove their talents than the students in the U.S. thanks to some social doctrines going around in the region).
    • Re:Attitude (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Spoken like a person who has never travelled outside his home state. That's right, Americans work (and lose) with the doctrins of freedom and capitalism whereas "the others" win because they will be skinned alive if they don't come back with the gold.

      It is also a well known fact - and, actually, one that should make you ashamed of your country - that the vast majority of graduate students in science are not Americans. Much like in economy, the world supports your first place.

    • I don't know about that specifically, but in one of those contests I heard an interesting story about the Russian contestants, which shows how seriously they face those competitions.

      Some guy from Russia went with his coaches to a maths or computer science contest (I can't recall), and his performance was below what they expected. In the next day, they were all going for some sight-seeing in the city where the competition happened, and some of the people from Russia were going to see the sea for the first t
  • UWaterloo (Score:3, Informative)

    by Antyrael ( 855796 ) <traviswNO@SPAMwmpub.ca> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:15AM (#12165571)
    Glad to see "Canada's Top Math and CS University" is pulling in good results overseas too. ;)
  • by M3rk1n_Muffl3y ( 833866 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:22AM (#12165643)
    ...Communist (or ex) countries produce better programmers. Maybe it's because once you've tried commanding a whole economy, programming seems trivial by comparison.
  • Interesting tidbit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:23AM (#12165646)
    One of the Michigan Tech. team members was none other than Joe Nievelt [mtu.edu] one of the RIAA's "best friends" [findlaw.com]
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:26AM (#12165676) Homepage
    These competitions seem to be very academic. Do they relate to programming in the real world? Although I applaud the people who won, I don't think that these are the right kind of competitions to be training people for. They should have a real open source design competition, where contestants are graded on the outcome of a large project. Extra points could be given for showing good use of testing, as well as good documentation and coding. You could also look at the use of special algorithms developed, but don't base all the points on this. There's more to programming these days than fancy algorithms.
    • These competitions seem to be very academic. Do they relate to programming in the real world?
      No, the competition problems are much more interesting. They should restrict the competition to writing Visual Basic report generators for Access. Also they should change the assignment 30 minutes before it's due. Finally, the winners should be sent away without any award while the judges sell the software to pay for their new mansions.
    • Give me a break. And basketball players should better practice lifting Glad bags into dumpsters to better prepare themselves for careers in "sanitary engineering?"

      The ICPC is sport. Through the years they have developed a set of rules that make it interesting and balanced. Those who win are good programmers in the same sense that basketball players (or soccer players or whatever) are good athletes.

      There are many different sports with many different rules. Winning in any one indicates excellence.
  • by CaymanIslandCarpedie ( 868408 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:28AM (#12165709) Journal
    To begin, no I didn't attend any of the places mentioned in this article so I'm not biased.

    Now the host placing first may seem a bit suspicious, but the other universities in the top four certainly lend some credibility to it.

    I've worked with a number of russion developers which have come from those universities and they were quite brilliant. It seems they actually teach math and physics there, what a concept! ;-)

    I personally rate the University of Waterloo (in Canada) the top computer science university in North America. Yes high profile places like MIT have some brilliant people, but I've found the University of Waterloo has the most consistant quality of graduates. If you look at the accomplishments of Waterloo grads it pretty impressive. Research In Motion (Blackberries) are probably the most well known company founded by UofW grads, but there are lots of others which are also very impressive. Thier policy on requiring LOTS of real world experience for the degree and work/research opportunities in there technology park also gives lots of great experiance.

    I've found UofW grads aren't those "fresh out of college" types who have some book knowledge, but not much practical experience. They tend to walk out after graduating ready to REALLY contribute instead of needing a lot of "mentoring" which most fresh grads need (I know I did).
    • Thank you :) I'm a UWaterloo CS student who is graduating at the end of the month.

      To address your very last point about not being 'fresh out of college' types, I believe this is mostly due to our co-op program. The vast majority of CS graduates went through the co-op program which over 5 years includes 6 terms (2 full years) of work experience. Luckily most positions, especially for upper year students, are industry development positions. First year students usually end up doing tech support or some such w
    • by Skyhawkelite ( 874245 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @02:32PM (#12167789)
      Hey, this is my first post ever in Slashdot :P. Anyways, I am a UofW engineering student and I'd like you to know a bit about my University and Canada.

      University of Waterloo is THE top school in Canada according to Maclaens and is THE top University in Canada for Engineering + CS. The University has the largest Co-op education service in the world. All engineering students and CS students have Co-op every other term. I'm on my co-op term right now. The University's main goal as of now is to ready its students for the work force. We gain 2 years work experience by the time we graduate.

      The University is very young (I think found in 1957) and has rapidly grown because of its connections with companies like RIM and COM DEV. Our Chancellor is the President of RIM! RIM Headquarters is next door to us. Across the street we have the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

      Also, UW is the recruiting ground for M$ (maybe we all hate them, but meh). A lot of the top engineers and programmers in Canada come from UW and end up in the states due to nice offers and oppurtunities. We call that the "Brain Drain."

      UW DOES NOT have courses or teachings that are directed towards contests. The courses are extemely rigourous with high expectations. All courses force a lot of critical thinking. We take Math and Science seriously here.

      UW conducts nationwide math, physics, and chem contests to high schoolers as well. In Engineering you have to write an entrance math test (which most people fail, but its Bell Curved). If your below standards, they offer mandatory math tutorial services to you. We also recently placed 4th in PUTNAM math comepetition.

      Also, addressing the jokes about US being beaten by Canada: Canada has played important roles in science and engineering. Especially since the layed off workers from the Arrow project worked on NASA's Mercury and Apollo missions. That's right, it's our engineers and scientists that helped US get to the Moon. The Arrow project in itself is a great feat for Canada. Arrow was for more advanced than any US aircraft for very long time.

      Currently, UW is looking towards raising funds and improving our Graduate programs to become top notch like MIT. We are also investing quite a lot of money to bring top professors in. UW is already good enough to be treated like an Ivy League school in my opinion. However, once we do invest in research I can garantee 50 years from now it will be well known and respected Internationally.

      O, by the way...I'm an American :P.

  • Woo Waterloo!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by taneem ( 873769 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:31AM (#12165739) Homepage
    I'm a Waterloo student and it's awesome to see how we did. Waterloo competes regularly and has had a winning place several times before.

    As for the people who have been insinuating that the Shanghai Jiao Tong University rigged the results, take a look [baylor.edu] at the past winners page. They were the winners in 2002 as well (hosted in Honolulu).

    As for the actual problem set: it can be found (PDF)here [baylor.edu].
  • Seems to me the way to do it is to have one team code a large project, and the other teams try to maintain it. Most of programming is maintenance, not development. Solving problems creatively is fun, but is that the real work of programmers? I thought we were supposed to make solutions happen for people.
  • I competed once... (Score:4, Informative)

    by bdbolton ( 830677 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:36AM (#12165788) Journal
    I participated in the southern regional ACM programming contest. GaTech won with Florida coming in second. The questions are extremely hard. We solved one problem. They give you 5 lines of test data but when the judges test it they will use hundreds of lines of test data. Not only must your program be correct it must also be fast (less than 3 minutes)

    oh and honorable mention means you didn't solve any. Take that Tech! ;)

    -Brian
    • by kaszeta ( 322161 )
      I participated in the southern regional ACM programming contest. GaTech won with Florida coming in second. The questions are extremely hard. We solved one problem. They give you 5 lines of test data but when the judges test it they will use hundreds of lines of test data. Not only must your program be correct it must also be fast (less than 3 minutes)

      That's what I liked about the programming contest (I was on Michigan State University's team in '92 and '94, going on to the Finals in '94). Virtually every

  • According to the official scoreboard [baylor.edu] the top 3 are Moscow, St. Petersburg and Waterloo (all ranked with same amount of solved questions). Shanghai placed 4th, but they're the champions?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The score board is frozen one hour before the contest finishes. This is a long standing rule of ACM/ICPC contest, they claim that this way you'll be keep interested in wait for the final award ceremony.
  • by Stevyn ( 691306 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @12:10PM (#12166122)
    I looked at the questions and I was surprised they didn't include some basic computer skills. No where did they ask how to install an operating system. Compiling a kernel wasn't mentioned. Configuring a license server? Nope! MySQL? Not a damn reference.

    It's obvious to me that these "computer scientists" aren't skilled for the real world and will never get a respectable IT job.
    • by Scraven ( 872624 )
      I know several people who have been to ACM world finals. Among them are one of the most irreplacable programmers for the company that I work for, and several programmers at a company down the road that has a very popular search engine. I don't know about you, but that search engine company is probably the *most* respectable job in the realm of computer science.
  • Poor poor USA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spankophile ( 78098 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @12:33PM (#12166392) Homepage
    So they didn't place.

    Now all I see is people saying: "The Contest isn't representative", "The Metrics are poor", "The problems are academic", and "I wouldn't judge the state of CS curricula based on a contest"

    That's all find and good - as long as you sleep better tonight.

    But you still didn't place.
    • Re:Poor poor USA (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rk ( 6314 )

      The funny thing is, the top 20 positions could have been taken by US teams, and you know what?

      I still didn't place.

      If I had managed first post, mine would have been "Cue the nationalist chest beating and excuse making now."

      Nationalism sucks.

  • Let's be honest... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by __aanebg9627 ( 695892 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @02:52PM (#12168065)
    ...it's a legitimate contest, tests something important, and the U.S. teams were beaten.

    I'm American, and love my country, but we have to face facts. U.S. society doesn't place a lot of value on academic knowledge, compared to the rest of the world. Our cultural heroes aren't scientists, academics, and thinkers -- they are entertainers and athletes. We respect practicality, and making money, not intellectual understanding. Our society has a longstanding democratic suspicion of elites, including intellectual elites, which often shows up as a disdain for 'impractical' academics. There are several examples of this cultural disdain in the responses to this topic (taking the form of, "who cares, it has no relevance to the practical realm of real-world programming/software engineering."

    You can argue about whether or not this disdain for intellectual mastery is good, but the U.S. is one of the few countries in the world where the theory of evolution isn't widely accepted. Perhaps our culture's disdain for and mistrust of elites has a real price, and this contest is one place it shows up? Perhaps it also encourages many of the brightest students to go into areas where they can make money -- law, medical, or business school -- rather than academia?

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