Battle of the Brains | Spotlight

CSULA students race against the clock during ‘programmathon’

Three computer science teams represent Cal State L.A. at regional competition

Pictured: (l-r) CSULA team members Alfonso Ortega and Sanmit Narvekar. Pictured: (l-r) CSULA team members Alfonso Ortega and Sanmit Narvekar.

Imagine having to solve eight complex, real-world computer problems within a grueling five-hour limit. Equipped with their programming skills and mental endurance, three teams of Cal State L.A.’s computer science students took on the challenge last fall.

Competing in a “Battle of the Brains” to solve eight problem sets with algorithms that will produce the results specified in the CPU [central processing unit] time allotted, two Cal State L.A.’s teams finished 16th and 36th place overall, which ranked them among the top 12 percent and 50 percent of the region. One other CSULA team received an honorable mention.

Coached by CSULA Computer Science Professor Raj Pamula, Cal State L.A.’s three teams included Sanmit Narvekar and Alfonso Ortega (16th place); Yin Yin Chen, Alberto Gutierrez and Rafael Sanchez (36th place); and Michael Hsu and Mark Buising (honorable mention).

Professor Pamula said, “Congratulations to our students for this impressive feat to go head-to-head with the best collegiate programmers from Southern California regional schools at the IBM-sponsored 35th Annual Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) ‘Battle of the Brains’ International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC). This is the most prestigious computer programming competition of its kind.”

Pictured: (l-r) CSULA team members Yin Yin Chen, Alberto Gutierrez and Rafael Sanchez. Pictured: (l-r) CSULA team members Yin Yin Chen, Alberto Gutierrez and Rafael Sanchez.


“The problems cover a wide range of application areas, including business data processing, engineering, text handling, process optimization and more,” explained Pamula. “Solving a problem means that your program—when compiled by the judges and run against the judges’ confidential data—gives the results the judges expect. Although our students didn’t move onto the finals, they certainly deserve to be recognized for their hard work and for being highly competitive.”

According to Sanchez, “The competition itself was an intense five-hour ‘programmathon,’ the most intense single programming session with a race against the clock. The programming problems were hard, but the time constraint made it nightmarish. The best part was when they gave us the pizza!”

A total of 72 teams from approximately 26 universities competed in the ICPC Southern California regional contest at Riverside Community College, in order to earn the coveted spot at the contest’s World Finals in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on March 3, 2011. Since the IBM sponsorship began in 1997, the number of teams participating has increased from 1,100 to more than 7,100 teams worldwide.

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