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Put on your thinking caps
Rebecca Mcmickell
Antelope Staff

Most students don’t spend their Saturdays deciphering complex computer programming challenges, but that’s exactly what three UNK students were doing Nov. 6 when the Deve-Lopers beat out 25 other teams from Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Minnesota in a regional competition.

The IBM-sponsored Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest, also known as Battle of the Brains, took place in Lincoln with 30 teams from universities across the Midwest. Under the immense pressure of a five-hour deadline, three UNK students were able to keep their cool and program their way to fifth place.

Kelsey Bard, a junior applied computer science major from Wakefield said the completion was intense. “The whole day involved getting acquainted with the software we would be using to submit problems, a brief meeting to start the competition off and then the five hour programming session,” she said. “Each team was given a packet of 10 problems. These problems were split up among members, and naturally we looked for the ones we thought would be quickest to solve, as the competition was based first on how many problems were completed correctly, then on how quickly they were submitted.”

Bard was also on the team last year along with fellow applied computer science major Brian Flannery, a senior from Atkinson. Both said that the team did not do as well last year, but it gave them a chance to become more familiar with the competition.

Flannery said he enjoyed the challenge of this year's contest.

“The best part was that it gave me a chance to stretch my brain. I enjoyed the challenging problems and the process of solving them with my team.”

The competition is held annually, but 2009 was the first year UNK had students compete. They found out about it through Dr. Xuli Liu, computer science professor.

Bard said she is considering competing again next year, and Flannery said that while he will not be eligible to compete next year, he plans on watching for similar competitions after he graduates.

He also encourages other students to get involved.

“It’s a fun experience and looks good on a resume. Even if you don’t think you’re mentally ready for it, just try,” he said. “It’s a good way to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and a way to show that you can work in a team.”

Bard agrees and said the competition is a great way to practice classroom skills hands on. “The competition is a great opener and gives you a chance to face real world problems. The problems you’re given require logical thinking and put a lot of classroom experience into action, which is an important thing for future classes.”

The contest is designed for students in the computer science field. Anyone interested can contact Dr. Liu at liux1@unk.edu.

“Oh yeah, and be sure to practice,” Flannery said.

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