College of Charleston computer science students recently placed second in the region out of 87 teams competing in Division II of the Association of Computing Machinery’s (ACM) annual International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) Southeast Region and finished first in Division II at their competition site.

Since 2015, the College has been a host competition site for the ACM-ICPC in the Southeast region, with contest participants coming from over 2,000 universities spread across 80 countries and six continents. The multi-tier, team-based programming competition operates according to the rules and regulations formulated by the ACM, and students in teams of three have to solve algorithmic programming problems.

“The teams are given 11 problems and have five hours to solve as many as they can,” explains Jim Bowring, associate professor of computer science at the College of Charleston and lead coordinator of the College’s competition site at Harbor Walk. “The problems are very challenging and involve an application of complex algorithms and data structures to solve.”

CofC’s team included Blaine Billings, a triple major in computer science, mathematics and Spanish, and computer science majors Clare Clever and Justin Willis. The trio competed against teams from the University of South Florida, Auburn University, the University of Georgia, the University of Alabama, Georgia State University, the University of West Florida, the University of North Florida, Valdosta State University, Kennesaw State University, Morehouse College, Charleston Southern University, the University of South Carolina Beaufort, Wofford College, Winthrop University, The Citadel, Augusta State University, Florida Southern College and the University of South Alabama. A team from Mercer University finished first.

“We won this in 2015, finished fourth in 2017, and to place second this year out of 87 teams is crazy good. Very, very few schools have this level of sustained success,” says Sebastian van Delden, interim dean of the School of Sciences and Mathematics. “The ACM-ICPC is considered the ‘Olympics of programming competitions.’ It is quite simply, the oldest, largest and most prestigious programming contest in the world.”

Featured image: CofC computer science students (l-r) Justin Willis, Blaine Billings and Clare Clever placed second at the 2019 ACM-ICPC.