Senior wins silver at international programming competition

Sept. 4, 2006, midnight | By Nitin Sukumar | 17 years, 8 months ago

Matt McCutchen takes home second USACO medal

Magnet senior Matt McCutchen won a silver medal for Team USA at the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) on Aug. 20.

The competition, which took place in Myriad, Mexico, consisted of six program prompts over two five-hour periods, as well as an initial practice round to help participants get accustomed to the expectations of the contest. Seventy five teams from all over the world participated in the IOI, which took place from Aug. 13 to Aug. 20. One five hour session was completed on Aug. 15, and the other on Aug. 17.

Team USA was put together by the USA Computing Olympiad (USACO), directed by Don Piele, a professor in mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Park side. Four students were selected after a rigorous series of contests and training sessions. USACO was first brought to McCutchen's attention when he used some of its practice problems in ninth grade for the computer team. The team consists of McCutchen, Durham Academy senior John Pardon, West Windsor senior Bohua Zhan and Princeton University freshman George Boxer. All four members won medals, highlighted by Pardon's gold. "We are very pleased that all the team members got medals," says Piele. "It is difficult to do."

In his second year of IOI competition, McCutchen was not especially pleased with his silver result, in contrast to his gold finish last year, but was not without optimism. "I was disappointed because I made a number of mistakes on the second day without which I might have won a gold medal," says McCutchen. "However, I am happy to have won a silver medal, and I hope to do better next year." Few students make it to this standing in the international competition, a fact that is not lost on the part of USACO. "I know Matt was hoping to make it into the gold medals," says Piele. "He had gold last year so I'm sure it was a bit of a downer to get silver this year. We don't put any pressure on the team to get gold medals. We just hope they do their best and have a good time."

USACO makes a team for the IOI every year, usually placing amongst the top five teams in the world. Both McCutchen and Piele expect that this consistency will remain so. "The IOI teams change from year to year, but I do expect that all team members will make contributions to the field of computer science," says McCutchen. He feels optimistic in his own participation in next year's competition, provided he makes it through the several challenges used to narrow down 16 top students around the country to the four that represent the country at the IOI. "I plan to participate in USACO 2006 – 2007, and I hope that I will get to go to the IOI again," says McCutchen.

McCutchen also participates in a number of other prestigious competitions in both computer science and mathematics, including United States of America Mathematical Olympiad, American Regions Math League, American Computer Science League and the University of Maryland Programming Competition.

USACO is an organization designed to help pre-college students enhance and expose their talent in the field of computer science. Six contests throughout the academic year and the final U.S. Open determine the finalists for the IOI team. For more information, visit

Nitin Sukumar. Nitin's middle name is Antonio Gates. More »

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