Teams From U-Md., U-Va., Travel to Stockholm for Prestigious Computer Contest

By Martin Weil and Jenna Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, April 20, 2009

Teams of students from two Washington area universities have gone to Stockholm to compete tomorrow with squads from throughout the world in a high-powered computer programming contest known as the "Battle of the Brains."

One of the three-member teams represents the University of Virginia, the other the University of Maryland at College Park. A total of 21 U.S. teams, including those from MIT, Cal Tech, Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley, will compete.

The 33-year-old competition, sponsored by IBM and known as the Association of Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest, has drawn 100 teams, the survivors of more than 7,000 squads from 88 countries.

"They're thrilled," said Kim Hazelwood, a faculty member in U-Va.'s computer science department, speaking of the Charlottesville team of Calvin Li, Briana Satchell and George Washington. "Definitely thrilled."

Before leaving for Sweden on Friday, the U-Va. team, coached by faculty member Aaron Bloomfield, gathered in the hallway outside the computer science department offices, said Tom Horton, an undergraduate program director in the department.

"There was a lot of excitement going on among the students," Horton said.

One reason the department was particularly proud of its team, he said, was its youth. Rather than grizzled veterans with many seasons in the programming trenches, he said, Satchell and Li are second-year students. Washington is in his third year.

The three are planning on a total of seven individual majors, including economics and philosophy.

The University of Maryland team is composed of Alan Jackoway, Mitchell Katz and Richard Matthew McCutchen. The coach is computer science professor Amol Deshpande.

The contest, described by its sponsors as a test of innovation, teamwork and creativity in building new software programs, has been on the minds of the College Park squad since it won a regional competition last fall, said Ted Knight, a spokesman for the university's department of electrical and computer engineering.

"It's kind of a big deal to be in this select group," Knight said. "Regardless of the outcome, we'll be celebrating their return."

In an e-mail sent last week to U-Va.'s engineering school faculty, Horton took a similar stance:

"No matter how well they do," he wrote, "it's quite the achievement to get to this level."

A practice session is scheduled today, with the finals taking place tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Stockholm time. Teams will be in ICPC T-shirts.

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