University of Winnipeg students Dilbarjot Randhawa, Aalekh Patel, and Harsh Patel of the Wesmen Coding Team have reason to celebrate.
The trio, all third-year Bachelor of Science students completing double majors in math and applied computer science, were the top Manitoba team competing at the North American Region Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) at the University of Manitoba, Saturday, November 9.
They have applied the critical thinking and problem solving skills they acquired in their upper-level math classes to succeed in this competition.
Dr. Anna Stokke
The team is also in the top 10 per cent of 170 teams competing across the North Central North America Region, which includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, Western Ontario, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
With only five hours to showcase their programming skills, the team was faced with real-world algorithmic challenges that tested their reasoning, strategy, and persistence.
It’s a high-pressure competition with every incorrect solution being assessed as a time penalty. Each team is made up of three students working together around a single computer to assess the difficulty of the problems, determine the best algorithmic approaches, brainstorm edge cases, and design data structure driven blocks of code that solve problems in the most efficient manner.
“The problems are handcrafted by a community of theoretical computer scientists and programmers across the globe, and are often comprised of advanced concepts in computer science, computational mathematics, and constrained open problems in the theory of optimization,” said Aalekh.
The team did not have a lot of time to practice due to a heavy course load, but they had competed together at a previous ICPC event, and practiced solving programming problems on online programming platforms whenever they had a chance.
“We failed more often than not,” said Aalekh. “But this experience let us explore our potential and encouraged us to work collectively as a team. It taught us how to divide a larger problem into smaller problems, solving it in parts until we had a working and complete solution.”
Aalekh also attributes the team’s success to their understanding of upper-level mathematics and the guidance they received from Dr. Anna Stokke, Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.
“I’m proud of our students,” said Stokke. “It’s great that they have applied the critical thinking and problem solving skills they acquired in their upper-level math classes to succeed in this competition.”
Of the 13 teams competing from Manitoba, the Wesmen Coding Team was able to solve the most problems in the fewest attempts. Three other UWinnipeg teams took part in the competition; Spark, Py-terminators, and Vision Coders.
“Some of them have competed more than once, and rather than being discouraged, they have worked very hard at becoming better,” said Dr. Mary Adedayo, assistant professor, Department of Applied Computer Science. “Their hard work should be commended.”
Across the North Central North America Region, Wesmen Coding Team came in 16 of 170 teams. The top team from this group will have the chance to compete at the ICPC World Finals in Moscow in 2020. In 2018, this global competition had 49,935 contestants from 3,098 universities in 111 countries on six continents.
This is the first time a UWinnipeg team has placed first in the province.
“I’m so proud of what our students have achieved,” said Dr. Simon Liao, Chair of the Department of Applied Computer Science. “This is an indication of how the fast-growing applied computer science program is able to produce more and more talent to meet the rising demand in Canada for experts in information technology industries.”