PRAGUE — Queen’s University emerged as the sole Canadian team to make the top rankings in the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest World Finals, successfully solving five out of 10 complex computational problems and earning 12th place.
Russia’s St. Petersburg Institute of Fine Mechanics
and Optics took first place in the international competition held earlier this month, which drew 73 teams consisting of three members each from 31 countries. St. Petersburg, which solved seven problems, was followed by KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden and Belarusian State University, which solved six problems each. The University of Waterloo, a two-time Gold Medal winner at the ACM World Finals, was essentially shut out for the second year in a row.
Gary Lindscott, a fourth-year computer science student at Queen’s in Kingston, Ont., said one of the most difficult problem involved writing a program that would allow a robot to infer the upper weight limit of objects contained in a series of six two-dimensional cubes.
Lindscott’s teammate, Bartholomew Furrow, said the team was ecstatic over its standings in the competition. ‘We had hoped for top 15, so this is incredible,’ he said, adding the team had a feeling it was doing fairly well. ‘We had two minutes to go and we got the answer back about your fifth problem and I shouted out ‘Yes.”
Thomas Tang, one of the Queen’s team’s three coaches, said he could hear Furrow’s cheer from his spot in the balcony of Obecni Dum, the old municipal hall where the tournament was held. ‘I thought we might be disqualified for causing a distraction,’ he said.
Queen’s shared the stage with the University of Calgary, which won the annual Java Challenge, a pre-tournament competition that asks students to write components to a video game.
The University of British Columbia, which along with Waterloo received an honourable mention, made its first appearance at the World Finals. Its team consisted of three foreign exchange students from Germany, who said they had taken the time to visit their families while making the trip to Prague.
IBM, which has sponsored the ACM World Finals since 1997, said next year’s event would be held in Shanghai,
People’s Republic of China. Gabby Silberman, program director for IBM Centres for Advanced Studies, said the 2005 tournament will feature an additional face-off to complement the Java Challenge.
‘It’ll be called ICPC using Power Technology developed by IBM… or something like that,’ he said. The challenge will ask students to create a parallel
application on an IBM platform that will use hundreds of CPUs. ‘They’ll be judged not only the quality of their application but its scaleability… it’ll be a good way to expose these students to distributed computing.’
Other problems in the tournament, considered the equivalent of a semester’s worth of a computer science program packed into five hours, asked students to write a program that finds the largest radius for a circular heliport that can be constructed on the flat roof of a building.