IBM scours programming contest for recruits

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – As Hollywood prepared to recognize its best and brightest Sunday night, a contest for their counterparts in computer programming was also beginning.

The ACM International Collegiate Programming contest kicked

off here as 200 post-secondary students – 70 teams of three players each – gathered to solve problems such as, “”develop software for space traffic control in the 25th century, where space ships using warp drive explode if they pass within 10 light years of each other.””

This is the 27th Annual World Finals of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) and the sixth year in a row that IBM has been a sponsor. In the past year more than 23,000 participants from 68 countries competed in regional contests to earn a place at the finals.

This year there are four teams from Canada participating: the University of Alberta, the University of Waterloo, the University of Toronto and the University of New Brunswick.

Helene Armitage, IBM’s vice-president of technology, said while development of information technology has advanced significantly in the last 40 years or so, it’s time to look at new ways of doing things. “”We’re stealing from other sciences other paradigms we can apply to programming,”” she said. “”I contend that in software we’re still in our infancy.””

Computing will change, said Armitage, in part due to advances in nanotechnology, and issues such as security need to be addressed in the very foundation of application of development, not later in the process. “”If you don’t build it into the fabric, it becomes a more difficult challenge later.””

The ACM is an opportunity for students to be exposed to IBM technology, while IBM also looks it as a recruiting opportunity. “”I’d love to get you all to work at IBM because this is such a diverse room.””

Despite that diversity and expanded involvement in the program over the years, there is still work to be done in getting a broader base of students to participate, particularly women. This is something that was not lost on the primarily male participants during the morning Q&A session Sunday.

“”We need more role models,”” said John Wolpert, who heads IBM’s Extreme Blue internship program. He said he and other IBMers would like to see resumes of potential hires who have gone back to their high school and middle schools to talk to students about the opportunities in information technology.

But while the participation of women has not been as high as desired, “”the women have been the very best of the program,”” said Wolpert.

Diversity is important, said Margaret Ashida, IBM’s director of university relations, but academic freedom is paramount. “”We don’t dictate who comes,”” she said.

“”We don’t do it by quota,”” added Gabriel Silverman, program directo

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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