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Thursday, October 28, 2021

UC Davis blows away competition in Battle of the Brains

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Headline: UC Davis blows away competition in Battle of the Brains

Layercake: Two Davis teams place in the computer programming competition

By HANNAH STRUMWASSER

Aggie News Writer

UC Davis students put their brains to the test in a computer programming competition Nov. 13, with two teams placing 11th and 37th.

Over 80 universities from the Pacific Northwest competed in the regional ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC), or the IBM Battle of the Brains, which consisted of problem solving through the use of computer programming. The winning team completed the most problems in the least amount of time with the least amount of errors.

“They’ve got to analyze what the question is asking, what domains of geometry, engineering mathematics and physics need to be applied to solve the problem, and then they’ve got to design a solution that uses the computer to figure out what the optimal solution is,” said Doug Heintzman, director of strategy at IBM Software Group and sponsorship executive of the ICPC.

The teams, coached by Vladimir Filkov, assistant professor in the computer sciences department, consisted of three students each. They trained independently throughout the year and as a group this fall quarter leading up to the competition.

California State University, Chico came in first place, however, Filkov is very proud of the UC Davis teams’ accomplishments, as they placed much higher than many high ranked universities such as UC Berkeley.

“Eleventh place is actually one of our best showings thus far. We bested all of the Berkeley teams this year, and they are known for very good computer science and programming training, so we’re pretty proud,” Filkov said.

Filkov also said that he hoped that this year’s accomplishment would bring more recognition and interest to the teams at UC Davis.

With over 2,000 universities in more than 90 countries competing worldwide, the Battle of the Brains is a very challenging competition in which the best of the best students compete.

“The Battle of Brains is the Olympics of the computer-programming world. These students push their minds to the limit, manipulate technologies such as analytics, system optimization and collaboration to effectively solve a semester’s worth of computer programming in just five hours,” said Dr. Michael Karasick, vice president of strategy and technology at IBM Software Group in a statement. “The amount of talent that we have the opportunity to witness each year is truly impressive and a testament to the value of this competition.”

Along with providing students with challenging and stimulating problems to solve, the Battle of the Brains also provides companies with prospective future employees.

“[The students] are the lifeblood of not only our company but also our industry, so we need to promote the pursuit of excellence in this domain space in order to inspire people to pursue excellence in the field,” Heintzman said. “We frankly need them and we hire extensively not only from the world finals but also from the regional competitions around the world.”

However, Heintzman said that the true benefit of the competition lies in the cultivation of smart, resourceful students who will someday be our future world problem solvers.

“There are some really big, challenging problems that we as a species face, and we are going to need some really extraordinary problem solving skills to be able to go and tackle these really challenging problems,” Heintzman said. “It’s really important that we shine a bright light on what these students are working toward and recognize the substantial responsibility that they face as they enter the workforce and become hopefully part of the solution.”

HANNAH STRUMWASSER can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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