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Union team places third in computer programming competition

JACKSON, Tenn.Nov. 19, 2010 – Working against the clock and other teams, three Union University students won third place among 14 teams at the mid-central regional of the Association for Computing Machinery’s International Collegiate Programming Competition Nov. 6.

The competition, held at Murray State University in Murray, Ky., provided each of the participating teams with nine complex computer programming problems to solve in five hours. The team had to read solution requirements and build and test software for each problem.

Around the world, thousands of teams compete in the ICPC each year. Last year, Union’s team won second place in the same regional competition.

“It’s a programming competition, but the biggest challenge is solving problems,” said Jim Kirk, associate professor of computer science at Union. “They have to be able to look at the problem descriptions and think about creative solutions to them, because the solution is not always very obvious.”

As a team, Union students Ben Fulton, a junior accounting major; Grayson Hardaway, a senior computer science major; and Kevin Reed, a junior computer science major, held the lead for the first three hours of the competition.

“These guys are very sharp,” Kirk said, noting that solving each problem required a firm grasp of computer programming language, logic and creativity.

Not only did they have to quickly find the solution to each problem, but they had to find the most efficient solution, he said.

Reed, who competed with the team for the first time this year, said content from the classes in his major prepared him well for solving problems at the competition. He also said the weekly ACM chapter meetings gave the team opportunities to prepare.

“The last few weeks before the competition we worked together to figure out what we could do as a team,” Reed said.

In practicing, the team members developed a system that allowed them to move quickly through the problems at the competition. While Grayson entered computer programming language to create a program to solve a problem, Fulton and Reed checked for errors in the coding and read ahead to begin working on the next problem.

Consistent coding for computer programs and practicing problem solving “keeps my mind fresh,” Reed said. “It is really helpful, especially if I want to do software development as a career.”

By Samantha Adams (’13)


Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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