CS Students Strive for World Finals at NAIPC

03-27-2015
Writer(s): Jesica E. Hollinger

CS students will be among the elite who compete at the North American Invitational Programming Contest (NAIPC), the largest and oldest programming contest in the world, on Saturday, March 28.

Lin and Wang

Two graduate students, Chengyuan Lin and Zhaosen Wang have teamed with undergraduate, Wei Kong to earn a coveted place in the World Finals. The contest is “virtual”, as the teams compete online from where ever they are comfortable.

Kong will be competing with the team long-distance, as she is interning at Facebook this spring.  She said the material she learned in her algorithm course helped her prepare for this contest.

“I always start by reviewing the material that I have learned from my algorithm courses,” Kong said. “We get together to work the contest questions from previous years, in order to get a feeling of the contest,” she added.

Wang said the teams submit their answers for the contest in an online platform called Kattis.

“The contest is an ICPC-style contest for which which 8- 11 problems must be solved in five hours by a three-member on a team with the goal of trying to solve as much and as fast as they can.” Wang said,” “Teams are ranked by the number of problems correctly solved, but if two teams solve the same amount of problems, the one using less time ranks higher with 20 minutes deducted for each wrong try,” Wang added.

Each team has a single computer, with no access to the Internet and only limited access to reference materials. To perform well, teams must have strong coding skills, as well as a solid grasp of algorithms, data structures, and other foundational computer science topics.

Lin said that competing with others is fun in it’s own right – even without the excitement of placing.  

“No matter what rank I get, the contest is helpful. It forces me to learn new things, especially if I can't solve a problem,” Lin said. “It also helps build strong friendships among ourselves and coach. Being with them is a lot of fun,” he added.

The University of Chicago hosts the event, which was previously held as an onsite destination at the university. More details about the competition can be found at http://naipc.uchicago.edu/2015/.