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Programming team earns spot at world competition

From left to right, Jason Long, Michael Adams, and Zach Felix. (Student Anthony Spargo and advisor Scott Weaver are missing from this picture.)

As if it’s not impressive enough to solve four challenging computer programming problems in five hours, a Messiah College team—comprised of students Michael Adams `13, Anthony Spargo `13 and Zachary Felix `15—solved the problems correctly and quickly enough to earn them third place in the Mid Atlantic United States Regional Programming Contest of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM).

The impressiveness of their accomplishment does not end there however. The team, led by advisors Jason Long `03, ITS employee; Scott Weaver ‘85, computer science professor; and Jonathan Corbin `03, was notified in mid-December that their stellar regional performance earned them a coveted invitation to compete in the ACM World Competition in Warsaw, Poland in May.

Messiah College will be one of only 20 American colleges and universities competing at the international level!

It’s with good reason this competition is often referred to as the “Battle of the Brains.” The problems are complex and often have an element of trickery. Long, advisor and 2002 ACM World Competition participant while a student at Messiah, gives this simple example: the problem presented to the team might be to write a program that multiplies two numbers. The team has to take into account variations such as what happens if one of the numbers is zero. So a program that successfully computes 5 x 3 = 15 does indeed solve the problem but will not be accepted by the judges if they notice that it computes 5 x 0 incorrectly.

Each team of three students only has one computer, so the participants must be wise about divvying up the responsibilities. Spargo says, “A big part of the strategy is breaking it up so that one person is typing and the other two are either checking his work or solving another problem.”

Messiah College competed with 63 other schools at the regional competition at Shippensburg University in November. With 168 teams vying for one of the coveted top three spots, the team and its advisors were not overly confident about their chances. Long, who could watch the team from another room, said it soon became apparent that this Messiah team was excelling because Messiah had more balloons—the visible marker provided to each team when they solved a problem correctly—than most of the other teams.

Housed in the information and mathematical sciences department, the programming team meets regularly to practice problems and learn new programming features. With the World Competition on the horizon, the team anticipates a more rigorous practice schedule in the spring. They have every reason to be motivated. Besides the sheer accomplishment of rubbing shoulders with the best student programmers in the world, teams who excel and impress at the World Competition are often offered positions on the spot at IBM.

One Response to “Programming team earns spot at world competition”

  1. Susan Says:

    Wow!! Great Job! We will all be cheering you on from Messiah!