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SBU’s 2018 ACM Team Wins Big at Programming Contest

The Stony Brook ACM group
The Stony Brook ACM group
The Stony Brook ACM group

Consisting of students from the Departments of Computer Engineering, Computer Science (CS) and Mathematics, the Stony Brook Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) team finished fourth in the 2018 ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest Greater New York Regional Programming Contest recently held at Manhattan College.

The Stony Brook team — Jiarui Zhang, Junxiang Huang and Taras Kolomatski — finished ahead of teams from Princeton (3 teams), Cornell (4 teams), Yale (3 teams), Columbia (1 team), NYU (4 teams), Rochester (1 team) and Rutgers (3 teams).

The competition was a nail-biter until the very end. There were ten algorithmic programming problems to be solved by teams of three in no more than five hours using a single computer. Approximately two hours into the contest Stony Brook’s top team was leading the points table with five problems solved when no other team solved more than four. The SBU team was ranked second after solving six problems, and third after solving seven. When the contest ended the team was only a few minutes away from correctly solving its eighth problem.

Stony Brook students started training at the end of September for the competition, meeting all day on Saturday and after classes on Wednesdays. According to one of the coaches, Zafar Ahmad (a third year PhD student in CS), “Our training focused on math, graph theory and using mathematical solutions to solve real-life situations.”

Doctoral student Haochen Chen is one of the longest running participants of the competition. Chen is a member of the Data Science Lab supervised by Professor Steve Skiena and he is about to graduate. His selfless contributions as coach have been vital to Stony Brook’s ACM activities since 2015.

“I am so proud of the students who represented our departments,” said Professor Rezaul Chowdhury, ACM faculty advisor and coach. “They endured a tough selection process, many hours of training, and can now enjoy their success.”

This year’s team of 12 students was selected from a pool of 90 applicants spanning departments and experience. Undergraduate students, master’s, and doctoral students all competed for a spot on the team on a level playing field.

“The ACM team is a great opportunity for everyone, especially undergraduate students who have a chance to solve problems that they would not normally be exposed to in a classroom setting,” said Samir Das, chair of the CS Department.

What’s Next for the Team?

Stony Brook’s top team, Ereshkigal, will be part of the national contest in the spring.
Stony Brook’s top team, Ereshkigal, will be part of the national contest in the spring.

As one of the top five teams, Stony Brook’s top team will participate in the North American Invitational Programming Contest taking place in the spring. Chowdhury and all three coaches plan on starting a club in early 2019, which will train for almost a complete year. SBU was invited to participate in the North American Invitational Contest also in 2016 and won a bronze medal ahead of many top schools.

For photos, standings at various stages of the 2018 contest, past results, and more details, visit the competition website.

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