Long hours of preparation in and outside the classroom paid off for a group of University of Northern British Columbia computer science students recently.
They were up to the task to post their best performance in school history at the ACM Pacific Northwest Intercollegiate Programming Regional Contest at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby.
Teams of three students have five hours to solve as many problems as possible from a given set of 12 to 13 problems with sufficient variation in both the difficulty and computational aspects that test their skills in programming and problem solving.
UNBC sent three teams to the competition this year and finished 6th, 15th and 32nd among 73 teams in Division II.
UNBC’s top team was in first place for more than three hours and only overtaken in in the last 90 minutes.
Prior to this year, UNBC’s best finish was 11th place.
The Pacific Northwest region includes top Canadian university teams from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, along with other major universities in the Pacific Northwest region such as Stanford University, University of California-Berkeley and the University of Washington.
Those schools, along with UNBC, compete against each other. UNBC is the northernmost school, while Hawaii is the southernmost school in the region.
Even though he’s competed for UNBC the last three years, Ryley Jewsbury credits the time he spent preparing in a UNBC classroom to the success at ACMs.
“Solving problems and preparing for the competition is an opportunity to apply many concepts taught in classes such as data structures and algorithms,” he said. “It also requires an approach to algorithm design that’s difficult to simulate in a classroom setting, where assignments are designed to test knowledge of specific topics.
“It’s rewarding when practice pays off and our team places well, but regardless of our placing, seeing the results at the end of the competition drives me to always continue improving, knowing there’s a large community of students doing the same.”
Computer Science Professor Dr. Alex Aravind has been the coach for the teams since 2008. Joining him for the last three years as co-coach was graduate student Conan Veitch, a former participant at previous ACM competitions.