Battle Of Brains Looks For Programming Skills

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University students from around the world are having their programming skills and mental endurance tested to the limit in the race to the finals of the annual ‘Battle of the Brains’ contest.

The ACM ICPC World Finals, known commonly as the Battle of the Brains, challenges the world’s top 100 university teams to use open standard technology in designing software that solves real-world problems and nurtures new generations of global talent in the science and art of information technology.

Framed around the IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative, the contest problems are modeled after real-world issues, such as developing programs which will optimize air traffic patterns as well as ground traffic flow at an airport.

The contest fosters creativity, teamwork, and innovation in building new software programs, and enables students to test their ability to perform under pressure by pitting teams of university students against a dozen complex problems to be completed within a grueling five-hour deadline. Huddled around a single computer, competitors race against the clock in a battle of logic, strategy, and mental endurance.

Local contests are held among universities who choose teams to represent them at the next level. Selection takes place from a field of over 300,000 students in computing disciplines worldwide. Teammates collaborate to rank the difficulty of the problems, deduce the requirements, design test beds, and build software systems that solve the problems under the intense scrutiny of expert judges.

For a well-versed computer science student, some of the problems require precision only. Some problems require a knowledge and understanding of advanced algorithms. Still, some others are simply hard to solve.

This year, more than 22,000 contestants from 1,931 universities from 82 countries on six continents competed at 242 sites.

Judging is relentlessly strict. The students are given a problem statement, not a requirements document. They are given an example of test data, but they do not have access to the judges’ test data and acceptance criteria. Each incorrect solution submitted is assessed a time penalty. The team that solves the most problems in the fewest attempts, and in the least cumulative time, is declared the winner.

The teams are awarded medals based on the number of problems they solved correctly in the shortest amount of time. The World Champions will return home with the “world’s smartest” trophy as well as prizes and scholarships. Among 2010’s winners were the Shanghai Jioatong University,  Moscow University, National Taiwan University and Taras Shevchenko Kiev National University.

The World Finals will be held from February 27-March 4, 2011 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

For more information, visit the ACM ICPC website. The contest on Twitter is at http://twitter.com/brainbattleicpc.

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