Computer Team finishes second at University of Maryland contest

March 20, 2006, midnight | By Lois Bangiolo | 18 years, 4 months ago

Blazers correctly code all eight programs

The Blair Computer Team placed second in the 16th annual University of Maryland Computer Programming contest held March 11.

The team of juniors David Goode and Matt McCutchen and seniors Mitchell Katz and Mike Luo, coached by computer science teacher Karen Collins, finished just six minutes behind the first place team from Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia. For a second place finish, the team received an award of $2,000.

In the three-hour contest, each team of four was given eight programs to code. Blair and Jefferson were the only two teams out of 34 participating to correctly complete all eight programs. The third place team from Winston Churchill High School completed only four.

Teams were given points based on the number of programs completed and the time it took to complete them. Twenty penalty points were received for incorrect answers and inefficient programs, which was a critical factor for Blair. Not knowing the size of the input (the more data, the slower the program runs), the team chose to spend more time developing an algorithm to speed running time of one of the programs to avoid the penalty.

"We assumed it had to be fast," said McCutchen. "We had to choose if we wanted to submit a simpler one and risk the 20 penalty points or submit the more efficient one that took awhile to make. We chose the more efficient one." However, the team later found that their faster algorithm was not necessary and "if we had done the simpler one, we might have won," said Goode.

Their second-place finish "was no big deal," according to McCutchen, since the prize money was adjusted higher to give more money to Blair to reflect the close finish times. He does admit, though, that they would have liked to win.

For more information about the University of Maryland Computer Programming Contest or to see the programs and solutions, visit their web site.

Lois Bangiolo. Lois Bangiolo was born on March 14, pi day, an auspicious date as she is now in the math-science magnet. In addition to writing for Silver Chips Online she runs track and is secretary of the MBHS Key Club. More »

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