Computer students take on the world
Wednesday, 26 October 2005
A team of three University of Adelaide Computer Science students will travel to the US next year to compete in the finals of the world's most prestigious programming contest after winning the regional finals recently.
The team - Alex Flint, Patrick Coleman and Khang Tran, and known as "KQ" - defeated 72 other elite Australian teams to win the South Pacific region of the Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest.
They will now travel to San Antonio, Texas, in April next year, along with New Zealand winner, the University of Auckland, for the world finals, which will feature the best 80 teams from universities around the globe.
Amazingly, in a competition open to students in up to their fourth year of study, two of the winning team are first-year students and none is more than 18 years old. The team is also the first from South Australia to advance to the world finals.
The Head of Computer Science, Professor Mike Brooks, praised the students for their achievement and says it symbolises the ability and potential of Computer Science students at Adelaide.
"To be successful in this competition you have to be more than just a programmer - you have to be able to problem-solve and think creatively," Professor Brooks says. "These are skills we aim to develop in our students at the University, and they're skills that employers want in our graduates."
For the contest, teams have five hours in which to solve a number of problems on one computer. Judging is relentlessly strict, with teams either given a "correct" or "incorrect" response to their complex answers. For the regional finals, KQ got six out of nine questions right in the time allotted, while making the fewest mistakes.
"Part of the entertainment comes from the pressure you are put under due to the brutality of the testing - it's either pass or fail, even if you're 90% correct you still have to try again," says Khang. "Sometimes it's the last 10% that can take the most time to get right."
"With three people in your team but only one computer, quite a bit of the success comes from effective teamwork, and being roughly the same in ability we seem to work together well," says Patrick.
"Getting through the regional contest is a fantastic achievement - the competition is incredibly strong," says University of Adelaide Computer Science lecturer and team coach, Brad Alexander. "There were more than 4000 teams around the world which started the contest, so to make it through to the top 80 is a real achievement."
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