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Competitive programming team advances to World Finals in North American Championship


Composite of ICPC Purdue Competitive Team, Riley Borgard, Trung Dang, Richard Li, and coach, Professor Ninghui Li

A team of Purdue Computer Science students placed 12th in the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) North America Championship. They, along with 18 other teams, will advance to the world finals contest in Moscow, October 1-6, 2021.

The (ICPC) is an algorithmic programming contest for college students. Teams of three, representing their university, develop algorithms and write programs to solve challenging problems, fostering collaboration, creativity, innovation, and the ability to perform under pressure. 

Purdue's competitive programming team members are Riley Borgard, Trung Dang, and Richard Li. Professors Ninghui Li and Gustavo Rodriguez-Rivera, the team’s coaches, were impressed by the hard work and dedication they saw amongst the squad. They said this year was especially challenging due to the quick pivot to an online competition format put in place due to the global pandemic.

Professor Rodriguez-Rivera said, “Our competitive programming team advancing to the ICPC World final puts our computer science department head-to-head with colleges and schools of computer science like MIT, CMU, Waterloo, and other top universities around the world.”

The competition was fierce and unique this year due to the virtual format. The teams are typically allowed five hours to solve problems but in the virtual competition this year, the time limit was restricted to three and a half hours. Teams are presented with thirteen algorithmic problems to solve. The final standings show the results of the North American Championship.

Teammate Richard Li said, “Usually we’d have the full five hours to solve all the problems, and a single shared workstation, but this year, with the virtual format, the time limit was reduced to 3.5 hours, with a computer for each contestant. The teams which placed fourth to 27th all solved a total of six problems correctly; this 24-way tie was highly irregular.” 

Though Purdue finished 12th in the large pack which solved six problems correctly, they were the first to solve one of the problems and they also solved it the fastest of all the firsts in the competition

Junior computer science major Trung Dang stated, "Preparing for a contest amidst a pandemic is really hard, but I am glad we made it work.”

Dang was also a member of last year’s team (including Borgard and Yi Xu) who became the first computer programming team from Purdue to qualify for the world finals. 

Richard Li, a junior and dual major in Computer Science Honors and Mathematics Honors, said, “I feel incredibly happy that I have such strong and reliable teammates in Riley and Trung, and I’m glad that I was able to support them well throughout the competition. We are all training hard to produce even better results at the World Finals in the coming months.”

Borgard (‘21 BS in computer science) contributed, "The contest switching to the virtual format at the last minute was a huge disappointment to us though I’m glad that the contest was still a success and we were able to advance to the World Finals again!” He added, "It is our goal in the CPU organization to build a strong community around competitive programming. We hope that our performance will inspire other students, and that our efforts will continue to lead to similar successes in years to come."

Professor Ninghui Li said, “I appreciate the team members’ hard work in this challenging time. We are building a reputation for excellence in competitive programming at Purdue.” He added, “We are very appreciative of the support of Purdue Computer Science Department and CP Program at Purdue University, which includes the Competitive Programmers Union (CPU) Club, and the series of courses on competitive programming."

Information is available about the ICPC North America Championship.


Writer: Emily Kinsell, 765-494-0669, emily@purdue.edu

Sources: Ninghui Li, ninghui@purdue.edu

Gustavo Rodriguez-Rivera, grr@purdue.edu

Last Updated: Aug 25, 2021 1:56 PM

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