Imagine you’re locked in a room somewhere in Russia, with 360 programmers from six continents. You and your two best friends have five hours and one computer to solve the world’s greatest problem: Where is the nearest bathroom?
Actually, you have to solve several problems, and finding the bathroom might not be one of them. But being asked to program the most efficient trajectory between point A and point B – the “Shortest Path” algorithm behind every GPS system – is a highly probable event. You might also be asked to write a program that organizes different shapes of tiles into a repeating mosaic, or determines the effectiveness of a standardized test, or plans a meal for vegans and carnivores with different allergies and medical conditions. All of the challenges presented to you will require you to tell a computer what to do, as explicitly as possible, by entering restraints and parameters.
You and your two best friends enter this room with only one restraint; you speak English, like everyone else. Other teams can whisper to each other in Greek. Or French. Or Chinese. Or Russian. Not true for you, but unlike them, you’re orange and blue . . .
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Joe Thuemler and Cheran “Naonao” Wu have been hacking together since their freshman year in high school. When they came to UF they met Alex Anderson, and the three of them began excelling at local and regional computer programming competitions. This July, they – along with their coach, CISE lecturer Dave Small – will travel to St. Petersburg, Russia to compete against 120 teams in the IBM-sponsored Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) World Finals.
Follow them on Facebook as they prepare for the competition, practicing up to 15 hours a week with the fifty other members of UF’s programming team.
To read the problem sets that were issued at the ACMICPC regional competition, click here