UCI sent five teams to the Southern California Regional competition of the 2018 ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC), the oldest and largest programming contest in the world. ICPC lets college students, working in teams of three, tackle real-world problems under pressure to help them develop problem-solving, programming and teamwork skills.
Two UCI teams — Filter and Iterator — made it into the top 10, while the other three teams — Lambda, Map and Reduce — placed in the top 25 (out of 98 teams). Additionally, a UCI team was the first to solve a problem for four of the 10 problems provided, with Team Filter receiving that recognition (and the $75 cash prize) twice.
Senior Lecturer of Computer Science Richard Pattis organized the teams, which were coached by Karthik Gajulapalli, a fourth-year undergraduate double majoring in computer science and math. Gajulapalli was grateful for the support from the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS). “I would like to thank the department for sponsoring us,” he says. “We can’t compete if ICS doesn’t support us.”
He also stressed the significance of two women earning spots on Team Map. “We select the teams based on an internal competition we host,” he explains. “The first two positions in the internal competition were secured by Ran Duan and Meta Novitia. These competitions tend to be more male dominated, so to have two women was quite special.”
Duan is a senior computer science major specializing in intelligent systems, and Novitia is a first-year computer science and engineering major interested in competitive programming. Both competed last year as well (though this was Novitia’s first attempt from UCI).
“At ICPC 2018, we solved four questions at the end,” says Duan, noting that this was an improvement over last year but still not ideal. “Although we had thoughts about how to solve most questions, debugging and coming up with marginal cases are still time-consuming.” She hopes to better manage her time next year in order to work through the problems more quickly.
She also noticed that although there were more female contestants this year, the total was still less than one-third of all contestants. “As one of the two female contestants at UCI, I would like to encourage all female ICS students to participate in ICPC,” she says. “I believe all UCI students, both males and females, are intelligent and qualified to join this contest. The ranking of Meta and I at the qualifier proves this.” So her message to her female ICS colleagues is to “just give it a try.” Through ICPC, she says, “you will find out how talented you are.”
Students interested in participating should attend an ACM@UCI club meeting (see their Facebook group or email Gajulapalli for more information). “Most of our teams this year were comprised of sophomores and juniors, and we lost five of our strongest competitors from last year,” says Gajulapalli. “Next year, we can only be better.”
— Shani Murray