The year of the road trip

It seems this is to be Colin’s year-of-the-road-trip. Earlier this year, Microsoft flew me out to Seattle, WA, for a weekend, which I have just realized I never remembered to blog about. Hopefully I will in a bit. In more recent news, the Amphisbaena team from UW-Madison, composed of Ray Wong, Brian Byrne and myself, has (conditionally, pending any appeals by other teams) advanced to the World Finals of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest, sponsored by IBM (So Scott, tell your uncle thanks). At the contest at UW-Parkside today, we competed against approximately 186 other teams from the North-Central North America region. The joke for me, personally, is that before the contest, I told my dad that we would at least try to beat South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (his alma mater), and as it turned out, they were the only team to beat us. So, we’ll be up against them again at the World Finals, held in San Antonio, TX, next April, along with teams from every corner of the globe.

How did we get here? Well, after a very intense 5-hour problem-solving session today, we came away tied for the maximum number of problems solved (5 of 9), and 2nd in minimum accumulated time required to solve them (580 minutes). To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t expected us to solve more than maybe 3 of the problems, and I certainly hadn’t expected us to place higher than untitled.cpp, another team from UW-Madison. My best to untitled.cpp, especially Jesse and Piramanayagam, who won’t have another shot at the finals. I wish that things could have worked out better for you guys. In truth, the problems on the contest came as a surprise to all of us. We had been practicing with problems from previous years’ world finals, and expecting somewhat easier problems for the regional competition, but we certainly did not expect the problems to be as easy as they were. Those who know anything about algorithms may understand what I mean when I say that none of the problems actually required any. They all had some sort of brute force or recursive solution, or at most involved the construction of a simple tree. We had anticipated more complicated problems, involving graphs or greedy or dynamic programming approaches, which is why I had not expected to perform very well; I’ve never studied these things before practicing for this contest. Since the problems were so much easier & different, however, they were far more in my range of ability & familiarity as an engineer, and we were able to solve problems at a pretty good rate. I was impressed by how well we worked together as a team; I think this aided our unexpected results to a large degree as well.

With that, I wish us luck at the World Finals, (and also that the regional judges don’t end up bumping us down due to other appeals…. :/ )

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