UNL team to World Finals in International Collegiate Programming Contest

Released on 11/21/2008, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., November 21st, 2008 —
Tim Echtenkamp, Steve Trout and Tyler Lemburg
Tim Echtenkamp, Steve Trout and Tyler Lemburg

Three computer science and engineering students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln won out over 200 other teams of student computer programmers in the North Central North America Regional competition of the IBM-sponsored Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest. The regional was conducted Nov. 15 at 15 sites, including UNL.

The three-student team of juniors in the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management includes Tim Echtenkamp of Cairo (computer engineering major), Tyler Lemburg of Dannebrog (math) and Steve Trout of Batavia, Ill. (computer science and math). Echtenkamp and Lemburg are both graduates of Centura High School. The three students will advance to the World Finals April 18-22 in Stockholm, Sweden. The regional runner-up teams that may also advance to Stockholm were from Iowa State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The coach of the UNL teams and director of the UNL site, Charles Riedesel, has had teams advance from the regional level to the World Finals in seven of the past 11 years.

One hundred talented teams will compete for awards, prizes, scholarships, and bragging rights to the "world's smartest trophy" at the World Finals, hosted by KTH-Royal Institute of Technology. Thousands of teams competed worldwide to earn advancement to the World Finals by winning the regional competition or wild cards.

"All four of UNL's teams scored in the top 25 in our region," Riedesel said.

The contest pits teams of three students against eight or more complex, real-world problems, with a grueling 5-hour deadline. Huddled around a single computer, competitors race against the clock in a battle of logic, strategy and mental endurance. Teammates collaborate to rank the difficulty of the problems, deduce the requirements, design test beds, and build software systems that solve the problems under the intense scrutiny of expert judges. For a well-versed computer science student, some of the problems require precision only. Others require a knowledge and understanding of advanced algorithms. Still others are simply too hard to solve--except, of course, for the world's brightest problem solvers.

The students are given a problem statement, not a requirements document. They are given an example of test data, but they do not have access to the judges' test data and acceptance criteria. Each incorrect solution submitted is assessed a time penalty. The team that solves the most problems in the fewest attempts in the least cumulative time is declared the winner.

To learn more about the ICPC, visit http://acmicpc.org or http://icpc.baylor.edu.

The Associated Media File link below is to a color JPEG image of Echtenkamp (left), Trout (center) and Lemburg (right), illuminated by code similar to what they wrote in the competition. (Photo by Craig Chandler, UNL University Communications)