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W&L Student Teams Compete in Computer Programming Contest

Two teams of three students from Washington and Lee University recently placed second and fourth in a computer programming contest at Longwood University in Farmville, Va.

A total of 16 teams, comprising 46 students from eight colleges and universities in Virginia, competed on Oct. 22 in the inaugural invitational contest sponsored by Longwood’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

The aim of the contest was to design programs for problems faster than opposing teams. The W&L teams were among only four teams that correctly solved five problems out of nine. A five-minute penalty was added for each incorrect solution to a problem. The winning team, from Longwood University, had a penalty time of 540 minutes, while W&L’s second-place team had a penalty time of 682 minutes.

“It was a grueling four hours,” said Joshua Stough, assistant professor of computer science and the teams’ coach. “But on the bright side it was a real geek-fest and you learned a lot about yourself. It’s for the glory of it and for sharpening your skills as a problem solver and coder/hacker.

“The problems, which were submitted by faculty from the participating schools, ranged greatly in difficulty and subject matter,” said Stough. “One example of a simpler problem was ‘Given a football quarterback’s statistics, compute the quarterback rating, for which a formula is provided.’ The problems varied right up to what are basically advanced math problems, from combinatorics to graph theory.”

The two teams were only recently organized by W&L sophomore Richard Marmorstein. “We should all thank Richard for marshalling interest, organizing the teams and making us proud,” acknowledged Stough.

The second-place team consisted of Lee Davis ’13, Garrett Koller ’14 and Anton Reid ’14. Members of the fourth-place team were Marmorstein, Alex Baca ’14 and Suraj Bajracharya ’14.

“Given their finishes, the teams are hungry for more competition,” said Stough. “They will compete again in the ACM regionals at Shippensburg, Pa., against the likes of Penn State, West Virginia and Dickinson College.”

Other colleges taking part in the Longwood contest were Bridgewater College, Hampden-Sydney College, Lynchburg College, Randolph-Macon College, Southside Virginia Community College and the College of William & Mary.