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UCF Hosts ‘Battle of the Brains’ Programming Championship, Seeking 13th Straight Trip to World Finals

The competition helps build students’ problem-solving skills, which are valuable to those seeking a career in software development, data science and research, and related fields.
By: Bel Huston | May 20, 2024

UCF’s “Apocalypse Attack” students will be among 50 teams from the U.S. and Canada competing May 27 in the nation’s most prestigious computer programming contest, showcasing their exceptional talents to leading employers.

The UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science will host the International Collegiate Programming Contest’s (ICPC) North America Championship. Known as the “Battle of Brains,” the five-hour contest involves a race to solve the most brain teasers and logic problems correctly over five hours. Each problem is solved by writing a computer program that generates the correct answer.

UCF will compete alongside the most elite teams on the continent, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Columbia University and Stanford University.

The top 16 teams will move on to the world finals, to be held in September in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The world’s most prestigious collegiate competition builds students’ problem-solving skills, which are valuable to those seeking a career in software development, data science and research, and related fields.

UCF’s team will be seeking to advance to the world finals for the 13th consecutive year. Team advisor and Professor of Computer Science Ali Orooji says the team is excited to compete at home, and that he is optimistic about UCF’s chances of placing exceptionally well at the championship.

“We have a strong team, and they definitely have the talent to finish in top five,” Orooji says. “It is, however, a five-hour contest with many good teams so the smallest mistakes will make a difference. We are very proud of UCF’s consistent record over the last 40 years and appreciate the dedication and hard work of our students.”

The NAC and NAPC are sponsored by the National Security Agency, Jane Street, Citadel, Jump Training and Jet Brains. Each sponsor will have representatives on-site at a career fair for the contest participants, giving the students the opportunity to meet with them to discuss future jobs and internships.

“It is our pleasure to showcase UCF to so many great institutions in North America,” says Michael Georgiopoulos, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. “It is also our pleasure to give the opportunity to students and coaches to interact with each other, get to know each other better and exchange ideas of how they can expand the passion and knowledge about computing to a wider audience.”

This year’s NAC is unique in that is also offers a programming camp three days before the championship, offered to the attending teams as practice time before the big event. The North America Programming Camp (NAPC) features six world-class trainers who have coached world finalists or competed on the world stage themselves.

In addition to showcasing their technical talents, teams must display a slew of other strengths to make it through to the next level of competition, including smart time management, grace under pressure and successful collaboration in their teams of three, sharing one computer.

“All are champions in their own right, having first been selected to compete from their universities. They bested over 1,000 teams in ICPC competitions throughout North America to advance to the NAC, competing to advance to the ICPC World Finals, the top 1% of nearly 20,000 teams competing globally,” says ICPC Executive Director Bill Poucher. “How good are they? They are extraordinary.”

The hometown team UCF Apocalypse Attack, coached by computer science lecturer Travis Meade, is comprises Tyler Marks ’24, who earned bachelor’s degrees from UCF in both computer science and mechanical engineering; computer science alum Andy Phan ’21 ’23MS, who is working on a second master’s degree from UCF in mathematics; and computer science undergraduate Sachin Sivakumar. The team placed first in the Southeast Regional Programming Content to earn their spot in the North America Championship.

Damla Turgut, chair of the UCF Department of Computer Science, says that the competition shines a spotlight on the impressive technical skills students will demonstrate as they compete for a spot in world finals.

“We are excited to host the top student programmers from across North America at the UCF campus and to cheer on our own team in the competition,” Turgut says. “This event will showcase the exceptional talents and skills of our graduates to leading tech employers.”

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