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2011 News Releases

Longwood student team wins on-campus computer programming contest

October 26, 2011

Jeff Anway and Chris Thatcher and sophomore Nick Pastore who won an on-campus computer programming contest hosted Longwood student team of Chris Thatcher (from left), Jeff Anway and Nick Pastore won an on-campus computer programming contest that featured 16 teams from eight colleges.

A Longwood University student team recently won an on-campus computer programming contest hosted and co-sponsored by the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.

A team of juniors Jeff Anway and Chris Thatcher and sophomore Nick Pastore placed first among the 16 teams from eight colleges and universities that participated Oct. 22 in the first-time invitational contest, also co-sponsored by the Longwood chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). "The participating students included some of the most talented programmers in the state," said Dr. Robert Marmorstein, assistant professor of computer science and adviser to the Longwood ACM chapter.

In the contest, modeled after a similar event sponsored by ACM, students worked in teams of three to design programs that solve challenging mathematical and practical puzzles. The goal was to correctly solve the most problems in four hours. Ties were broken based on the total time it took each team to successfully solve all their problems, with a five-minute penalty added for each incorrect solution to a problem. The problems were submitted by faculty members at the participating schools, ranged in difficulty from simple calculations to extremely challenging modeling problems, and covered topics ranging from music to physics.

"While there are similar events held by organizations such as the ACM, as far as I know this is the first contest of its kind to held especially for Virginia colleges," Marmorstein said. "The ACM event is a regional event that serves as a qualifier for international competition. Also unlike the ACM contest, teams did not need to pay an entry fee to participate. We hope the Longwood contest becomes an annual event."

The winning Longwood team, which called itself Floffy Rainbox Unicorn, solved five problems correctly. Three other teams - two from Washington and Lee University and one from the College of William & Mary - also solved five questions. The Longwood team had a time penalty of 540 minutes, while the second place team, from Washington and Lee, had a time penalty of 682 minutes.

Four other Longwood teams competed. The others consisted of Matthew Jayce Gaines, Michael Moyer and Nathan Scott Owens (Team Ramrod, fifth place); William Hollingsworth, Nishant Kanitkar and Justin Lafferty (Team Death Eaters, eighth place); Jordan Hudson, Richie Noble and Amanda Rebovich (Team Dragons, 10th place); and Amber Cain, Meredith Martin and Carmen Rinaldi (Team Flying Mongooses, 12th place).

Some 46 students overall competed. Other schools that sent teams were Bridgewater College, Hampden-Sydney College, Lynchburg College, Randolph-Macon College, and Southside Virginia Community College.

Longwood student teams have competed regularly since 2006, and occasionally before then, in the regional contest of the ACM's Mid-Atlantic Region, a qualifier for the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest. This year some four Longwood teams, each consisting of three students, are registered for the Radford University site, one of eight sites in the region in which competition will be held simultaneously Nov. 5 over a five-hour period.

"Our recent contest on campus was similar in style to this contest, with a few minor differences, and was patterned after this," Marmorstein said. "One difference, and a very important one, is that the ACM contest allows students to only use three programming languages (C, C++, and Java), while we allowed them to use nine different programming languages. That made the contest more accessible to freshmen and students from schools that primarily teach Python in their introductory sequence.

"A Longwood team finished fourth at the regional contest site at Radford in 2008. Schools can send more than one team, and graduate students can compete but not if they have earned a master's degree. Some 164 teams from 64 colleges are competing in the Mid-Atlantic Regional, and 100 teams from the various regions will compete May 14-18 in the World Finals, which will be held this year in Warsaw, Poland, and hosted by the University of  Warsaw. The contest is worldwide and often is won by a team from China or Russia. Last year the contest was won by a Russian team, and a U.S. team from Michigan came in second."

The Mid-Atlantic Region encompasses eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. The Longwood students who will compete in the regional contest are Jeff Anway, Amber Cain, Matthew Jayce Gaines, William Hollingsworth, Justin Lafferty, Meredith Martin, Michael Moyer, Richie Noble, Nathan Scott Owens, Nick Pastore, Amanda Rebovich and Chris Thatcher.

The International Collegiate Programming Contest provides college students with an opportunity to demonstrate and sharpen their problem-solving and computing skills. ACM is the world's largest educational and scientific computing society.