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Journey through Regionals: Interview with Dr. Legand Burge, Howard University ACM-ICPC Site Director

December 13th, 2013

IBM offers colleges and universities access to the latest advances in analytics technology and business industry expertise. IBM’s goal through programs like the ACM-ICPC, is to inspire the next generation of business leaders to think differently about how technology can be used to transform business and redefine industries.

 

ACM-ICPC Regional qualifying contests are already underway in the United States and will continue through the rest of the month. Following the regional rounds, only 18 to 20 United States universities will be a part of the 120 elite three-person teams from around the world to advance to the World Finals. The final contest will take place June 22-26, 2014, and will be hosted by Ural Federal University in Ekaterinburg, Russia.   

Through all of the hustle and bustle, Dr. Legand Burge, Howard University ACM-ICPC Site Director, took a break to share his insights on the ACM-ICPC and what it takes to run a successful Regionals contest.

Legand Burge, ACM-ICPC Site Director and Howard University Chair of the Systems and Computer Science Department


Adedeji: How long have you been involved with the ACM-ICPC and what are your major roles and responsibilities?

Burge: I’ve been involved in the ACM-ICPC since the late ‘80’s when I was an undergraduate student at Howard University. We have been hosting the competition here at Howard for over 40 years. As site director, I coordinate everything from making sure all teams are registered to ensuring all of the machines have the appropriate compilers or editors for the tools that the students use to write programs.

Adedeji: Could you tell us a little bit about some of the biggest surprises and challenges that you face with coordinating a competition of this caliber?

Burge: The main problems that every site director has is just making sure that the system stays up and running.  You’re talking about several computers and the network connection and everybody must be tuned to the same clock. We all have to stay on time.  When one site goes down, it causes the ripple effect within the entire region.  One of our major challenges is making sure that all the systems stay up.  Here at Howard, we do thorough testing, so we feel comfortable the day of. 

Adedeji: How can students here in the region get involved in the competition?

Burge: Most universities hold local programming competitions through their local chapters of the ACM.  From there, students are ranked and put together a top team. They open these local competitions not just for computer science students, but for any student in any major.  You can even have a graduate student on your team.  I think the main thing is if you’re interested, you should go to the chair of the computer science department and inquire about an upcoming programming competition. 

Adedeji: Thank you so much for your time! I will let you get back to running the show here today.

 

 

Journey through Regionals: Interview with Morgan State University’s Coaches

December 10th, 2013

The ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest is no stranger to growth. Since IBM became sponsor in 1997, ICPC participation has increased by more than 1100%. This year, 29,479 of the finest students in computing disciplines from 2,322 universities from 91 countries on six continents participated.

 

The coaches of Morgan State University, long-time ACM-ICPC competitors, chat with us about their growing program and share a few words of wisdom they left their team with before the competition.

From left to right: Fitzroy Nembhard, Morgan State University faculty;  Vojislan Stojkovic, Morgan State University Associate Professor; William L. Lupton, Morgan State University Associate Professor; Ashish Parajuli, Morgan State University faculty

 

Adedeji: Could you tell us about your team?


Stojkovic: I am one of four coaches for Morgan State University. We have had a great increase of students in the last 20 years so we have two teams competing.  We have a great community of 32 students and they are some of the smartest people in the world. 


Lupton: I work in the computer science department at Morgan State University.  Participating in this contest is part of our program to expose students to what the real world is like. It is one of several outings we take our students on to broaden their experiences, so they can become employees of great companies like IBM.


Adedeji: I’m sure you’ve been helping them prepare for months. What type of materials and problem sets did you guys work on?


Stojkovic: We have a few talks each week about programming contests.  You have to understand the most important thing is to understand the problem. After that you must map the problem and understand the right structures and recognize that for most of the problems they don’t need advanced structures.  You don’t need pointers or functions.  You have to know just basic one dimensional and two dimensional rays.  That’s it.


Adedeji: What are the roles of the participants on the team?


Stojkovic: Each team member is briefed in a similar fashion. However, each role depends on the mix of the team and each personality. One team has students with similar skills, enabling them to work well together. The other team is very individual, so everyone has to solve one different problem. We think that they can use their ability to work together to get the job done. The most important thing will be how to recognize what problems to solve.


Adedeji: What are some of the words of wisdom that you shared with your students before coming here today?


Nembhard: The team members are fired up and they simply came to win. We encouraged them to not overthink the problems and to think through what’s asked of them and try to use the simple data structures to provide the solution that is needed. The team that solves the problems the fastest and provides the solution to the problem will win. We told them not to focus too much on the complexities of the problem but rather the algorithms that will get them to the solution. With that, they should be able to relax and take their time while also solving the problem. The more relaxed one is, the better one will be able to think through a problem and come up with a correct solution.  We know they are good programmers and we expect them to do well. 


Adedeji: Thank you for sharing that great advice. I’m sure the ICPC participants are keeping all of those gems in mind for World Finals.

 

 

Journey through Regionals: Interview with Zach Leibowitz, George Mason University Head Coach

December 4th, 2013

According to the IBM Tech Trends report, only 1 in 10 organizations have the skills they need to benefit from advanced technologies such as cloud. Innovation, growth, and the ability to serve clients is at risk. IBM is taking significant steps to shrink this gap with sweeping changes to its skills programs. With additions like no charge software, curriculum and learning resources for universities, professors can bring the latest enterprise technology into their classroom. IBM is providing tutorials, how-to guides, case studies and ready to use curriculum in an effort to bring tomorrow tech leaders up to speed.

 

During the Mid-Atlantic Regionals competition at Howard University, podcast host Yinka Adedeji sat down with George Mason Head Coach Zach Leibowitz to discuss the school’s history with the ICPC and its preparation for the Regional contest.


George Mason Head Coach, Zach Liebowitz


Adedeji: Could you tell us a little about you and your team?


Leibowitz: I graduated from George Mason in 2012 and I will be graduating with my masters this semester. Traditionally it's just been one coach for us but recently we have started recruiting more people to help since our club is relatively new. We started back in 2008 and a few of the other graduate students who have been around for much longer have been helping the team out as well.

Adedeji: How did you prepare your team for this year’s regionals competition?

Leibowitz: For the most part, we focused on using old Mid-Atlantic contest problems. We kept going over the basic ideas of what is behind these problems before hand. More recently we have started to use related problems that may be a little simpler in scope to explain to the team first followed by a mixture of live coding and having code ready to go over with the newer people to help them understand the ideas so we can give them a slightly harder problem to try. It's been working reasonably well as far as getting people ready.

Adedeji: What words of wisdom did you share with your students before they came?

Leibowitz: Our team consists of one junior, one senior and two freshman, so we are just really focusing on the fact that they have more time to do better in the future. So I have encouraged them to think of this as practice and as a stepping stone for next year.

Adedeji: Great idea! Hopefully all of your team’s hard work pays off big next year. Thank you for your time!

Journey through Regionals: Visual Tour of the ICPC @HU

December 2nd, 2013

This fall, Battle of the Brains podcast host Yinka Adedeji traveled to Howard University in Washington, D.C., to give our viewers and listeners at home an inside look into the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest Mid-Atlantic Regionals competition.


IBM’s sponsorship commitment to the ICPC is part of a company-wide effort to advance the next generation of technology leaders and problem solvers who have combined skills of computing science and business management.  For more information, visit: http://www.ibm.com/university/acmcontest/ 


Today’s post is a photo essay of the contest. Be sure to check back over the next few weeks for interviews with team coaches, Howard’s Site Director and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Director.


                  The Contest was held on November 2, 2013, a beautiful day in D.C.


The twenty-three teams were vying for the first place trophy and a coveted trip to the World Finals in Ekaterinburg, Russia, next June.

And the winners were…

UMD2 from the University of Maryland!! Congrats!

Thanks to the hard-working contest volunteers!

 It was a great Mid-Atlantic Regionals contest!

Battle of the Brains Interview with David Barnes

November 26th, 2013

David Barnes, Program Director of Emerging Internet Technologies at IBM, joins Battle of the Brains host Yinka Adedeji to kick-off our regionals podcast series. For the first time, the podcast is presented as a video! We hope you think it's as cool as we do!

The Era of Cognitive Computing with Steve Hamm

August 2nd, 2013

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IBM Software Group's Amy Angelini is joined by Steve Hamm, strategist, writer and IBM's corporate communications videographer, to discuss cognitive computing. Steve also discusses his new book, Smart Machines: IBM's Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing, which was co-written with John Kelly, director of IBM research. Steve helps listeners explore the cognitive era, its role in the advancement of healthcare, and Watson's ability to sense, reason, learn and interact in new ways.

Tell Steve what you think about his interview by tweeting to him @SteveHamm31, and be sure to mention @BrainBattleICPC to include us in the conversation!

Listen Now:


World Final On-Site Interview with Jeff Jonas

July 2nd, 2013

jeffjonasibm.jpgJeff Jonas, IBM Fellow and Chief Scientist of the IBM Entity Analytics Group. As one of the world's leading Big Data experts, Jonas was an ideal choice to speak to students at this year's ICPC, as Big Data is the theme of this year's contest.

After giving the keynote speech at the IBM Tech Trek, Jonas sat down with Chas Kurtz to discuss Big Data.

Listen Now:


Inside ICPCNews with Jeff Donahoo

June 24th, 2013

"Battle of the Brains" host, Chas Kurtz, sits down with ICPC Deputy Executive Director, Jeff Donahoo, who shares insight on the ICPC and how to follow the contest for those who can't make it to St. Petersburg next week.

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Follow #ICPC2013 live at ICPCNews.com!

Thanks to our listeners for tuning in. As always, you can visit the IBM website for ICPC news and updates at ibm.com/university/acmcontest.

For those of you headed to St. Petersburg, please visit www.acmicpc.org for more information about World Finals, including the event schedule and practice problems. In the meantime, keep practicing and good luck!

Listen Now:


Why do I go to the ACM-ICPC World Finals?

June 17th, 2013

By Ivan Romanov, Guest Writer

We are thrilled to share the ACM-ICPC success story of Ivan Romanov, who has leveraged his experiences at the contest to expand his professional network, portfolio of work, and more. Here's Ivan's take on why he's attended the World Finals five times.

I have been to the ACM-ICPC World Finals five times already, and never in the same role. I'm going to share with you my reasons for visiting this event over and over again and my different roles each time.

My first time at the World Finals was back in 2002. At that time teams at World Finals were allowed to have on-site reserve participants with them, and I was honoured to accompany the first-ever team from Saratov State University that made it to the Finals held in Hawaii, USA. That was a legendary team of Ilya Elterman, Andrew Lazarev and Mike Mirzayanov, named Saratov SU#3. They became European Champions, won silver medals and became the biggest sensation and surprise of that Finals.

More than three years passed before my team qualified for the World Finals. It was our very last chance to show a good performance, since me and my teammates Roman Alekseenkov and Igor Kulkin were reaching the maximum age for ACM-ICPC participants. Luckily, we used that chance fully. Instead of describing the emotions, I'll just show you the picture from the 30th Finals hosted by Baylor University.

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After graduating I led the development of Code Game Challenge - a fun competition that we first hosted during Saratov Subregional contest 2006. Mike Mirzayanov and I were cordially invited to the Finals 2008 in Banff, Canada, to present the Code Game Challenge at the Competitive Learning Institute (CLI) led by Bill Booth. I'm happy that many years later, the game strategy for 2013 ICPC Challenge has been developed by the team from my University.

People whom you meet at the World Finals make visiting the event a really great and rewarding experience. Here is Roman Elizarov, World Finals 2013 Director, in Banff in 2008.

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Winning the ACM-ICPC World Finals in 2006 gave me a great opportunity to work for IBM. As a part of IBM TechTrek team I was pleased to showcase two technologies developed at IBM Zürich research lab. That was in 2009 in Stockholm, Sweden, and it was again a completely new role for me at Finals.

In 2012 in Warsaw, Poland, I tried a new role of being a spectator at the World Finals. Every role has its pros and cons. Being just a spectator, I slept in the cheapest hostel next to the contestants' luxury hotels, but for that I enjoyed more freedom there. I also enjoyed ACM-ICPC events becoming more and more spectacular.

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For me, it's really easy to remember when St. Petersburg NRU ITMO became World Champions over the past six years. ITMO always won during my last three visits (2008, 2009, 2012) and never won when I could not come to the World Finals (2007, 2010, 2011).

This year's World Finals takes place in St. Petersburg, Russia. It's not a question of whether I go or not, but which role should I try this time?

Check Out Our New YouTube Channel!

May 22nd, 2013

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**Photo credit: Mashable

Did you know we launched the BrainBattleICPC YouTube Channel this spring? If not, be sure to check it out! We'll be updating it throughout the year with exciting new content involving ICPC and IBM initiatives.

Six videos have already been added to the site:

  • ACM-ICPC IBM Recruitment
    • IBM's sponsorship commitment to the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest is part of a company-wide effort to advance the next generation of technology leaders and problem solvers who have combined skills of computing science and business management.
  • Top Coders
    • Top Coders from across the globe discuss computer programing and their experiences at the IBM-Sponsored ACM-ICPC World Finals.
  • ACM ICPC Finals 2012
    • The ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) traces its roots to a competition held at Texas A&M in 1970 hosted by the Alpha Chapter of the UPE Computer Science Honor Society. The idea quickly gained popularity within the United States and Canada as an innovative initiative to raise the aspirations, performance, and opportunity of the top students in the emerging field of computer science.
  • IBM Mobile Business: More Than Devices, It's The Data Between Them
    • Mobile business is more than devices, it's what you can do with the data in between them. The mobile world is open for business.
  • IBM Social Business: New Ways of Working
    • Social business means new ways of working. It's a production line of knowledge that never stops building. How social is your business?
  • IBM Big Data and Analytics: Make Right Decisions More Often
    • Big data and analytics can help predict trends down to the customer. Sales down to the shelf. What can big data and analytics do for you?

As always, you can visit the IBM website for ICPC news at ibm.com/developerworks/university/students/contests/acm/. For the latest ICPC updates, visit the official contest site at icpc.baylor.edu/. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/brainbattleicpc!